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Costello and Associates Designing Peace Plaza for Ball State

by: Jack Quigley
Tony Costello, FAIA
Tony Costello, FAIA
AIA Indiana recently hosted Costello and Associates Owner Tony Costello, FAIA and Ball State’s Associate Vice President for Campus Planning and Facilities Jim Lowe in a webinar to discuss Ball State’s upcoming Peace Plaza project, which aims to create an area on Ball State’s campus that promotes messages of peace and inclusion and honors those who lost their lives in the military or to mass violence.

Costello and Associates is a solo practitioner firm with a history of designing spaces that focus on socially responsible goals. Costello first became interested in the “peace movement” when he studied as an undergraduate at Pratt University where student peace demonstrations were prevalent. His experience at Pratt, along with the death of a close friend during the Vietnam war, drove his interest in the idea of peace and later motivated him to take on socially conscious projects like Ball State’s Peace Plaza.

Celebrating Peace and Selecting a Site
Costello has a history of taking on projects for faith-based clients that focus on socially responsible goals.

“We feel extremely fortunate as a limited-practice firm that we have been able to serve a number of faith-based clients of various denominations since our founding,” Costello said.

Costello and Associates recently designed a medical clinic in Haiti and redesigned the entryway of a Methodist church in Muncie.

Ball State’s project mission, as described by Costello, was to create a Peace Plaza on campus that would promote a message of tranquility and inclusive excellence and honor those who died as a result of mass violence and those who have died in service to our country.

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“I felt this project really was a way for me to personally reengage with the idea of celebrating peace,” Costello said.

Context analysis and site selection quickly emerged as crucial for Ball State and Costello when evaluating this project. They wanted the location of the peace plaza to fit naturally within the layout of their campus, so they decided to place it in an area that is surrounded by the school’s living and learning communities. The site is also near a pedestrian bike path and is adjacent to the university’s bell tower, making it easily accessible and visible to students and visitors walking on campus.

“The Peace Plaza fits nicely with the university green, the bell tower just above it, and the multicultural center nearby,” Lowe said.

Lowe said Ball State is also beginning the process of developing a nearby amphitheater that will eventually host cultural events.

Drawing Inspiration from Peace Projects to Shape the Design
Costello followed the advice that he often gives his students and began his design process by establishing a knowledge base of global and local projects and initiatives that promote peace.

He studied Ball State’s rich history of sculpting on campus that includes sculptures like Beneficence, cast by Daniel Chester, and the famous Frog Baby sculpture cast by Edith Barretto Stevens, both in 1937. Costello understood the important role materials would play in this project after observing these statues and noticing the extensive use of limestone and granite on Ball State’s campus

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“I wanted to make sure we kept a continuity in terms of the materials we selected for this project,” Costello said.

He said early on in the planning process, him and Jim Lowe began discussing the possibility of incorporating peace poles into the design. The International Peace Pole project describes peace poles as “internationally recognized symbols of the hopes of dreams of the entire human family.” Two peace poles already exist in Muncie outside two Lutheran churches, so Costello and Ball State decided to implement their own peace poles into the plaza design.

One large granite peace pole will stand tallest on the plaza’s edge and will represent members of the Muncie community, Ball State, and the United States. It will be surrounded by smaller peace poles representing different continents of the world. Original plans for the site called for the poles to be made from wood, but Costello said he wanted the design to last for 100 years, which would not be possible with wooden structures in this climate.

“In the long run, these granite columns will not only be beautiful, but they will also be low maintenance,” Costello said.

The tallest pole’s pyramid-shaped top will be acrylic and lit internally to project light during the night. Carved limestone seating wraps around the asymmetrical, sphere-shaped plaza and is broken into sections by organic pathways leading into the space. Dedication plaques made from limestone and marble will also be on site to honor donors and other key community figures, and Costello said his design leaves room for future dedications.

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Lowe said this project is one of many future developments planned for Ball State’s campus and the school currently has $350-400 million dollars of construction work on the way.

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