Scudder Plaza may be the most relaxing spot on campus: you can catch the cooling spray from James FitzGerald’s monumental sculpture, Fountain of Freedom, or be soothed by the sounds of its cascading water. At twenty-three feet high, Fountain of Freedom is one of the largest cast bronze sculptures in the U.S. Inspired by the rugged beauty of the artist’s native Pacific Northwest, the grooves, channels, and spires of the six-ton sculpture—reminiscent of naturally eroded forms—are meant to symbolize Woodrow Wilson’s aspirations and frustrations.
FitzGerald began his career as a painter, first studying with the great Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco and then working on WPA-funded murals throughout the U.S, including in New York, where he lived briefly with Jackson Pollock. After studying at Yale’s School of Architecture, FitzGerald returned west, where he began making monumental sculpture. There are five public fountains designed by FitzGerald in Seattle, including one for the IBM building designed by Minoru Yamasaki, the architect of the Woodrow Wilson School.
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University Architect Ron McCoy discusses Scudder Plaza and Roberston Hall
Robertson Hall and Scudder Plaza were designed by Minoru Yamasaki and opened in 1965.
Yamasaki is best known as the architect of the World Trade Center in New York City. Along with architects such as Philip Johnson and Edward Durrell Stone, Yamasaki worked in a style that was known as New Formalism. This was a post International Style of architecture that is characterized by idealistic, rational, and monumental form.
Robertson Hall is an interesting stylistic twist of a classical temple, with a colonnade shaped into the fluid form of a neo-gothic arch.
The plaza is an example of a post-war vocabulary of modern, monumental public space. The design is similar to a number of important civic spaces of the period, most notably Lincoln Center.
While the plaza contrasts with the principles that have defined the Princeton campus, it has become a popular and iconic campus and community space.
In order to create the site for the building and the plaza, Corwin Hall was moved to the east end of the site, on a system of steel rails, from its original location along Washington Road.
The plaza was renovated with an elegant order of trees in 2005 by the landscape firm of Quennell Rothschild.
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Seven hundred gallons of water are recirculated through the fountain each minute and are sprayed through an intricate system of fifty major pressure valves and more than 1,000 pin-hold jets.