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The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza occupies the eastern third of the University of South Florida's 9 acre central lawn. The plaza had always been a place of heavy pedestrian traffic; the most direct connection between the Phyllis P. Marshall Student Center and the former Administration Building. However, the plaza was as barren as it could be, and offered no respite from the hot Florida sun for the pedestrian and no place or reason for one to linger.
Special Factors and Significance
The MLK Plaza was the first project to implement the 1995 Campus Master Plan. The plaza is the urban, and geographic, center of the plan's cross-campus greenway concept. It also implemented for the first time the landscape principles and established, and tested, a landscape vocabulary that provided much needed continuity as other campus projects were implemented.
The project was charged with creating a profound place with a very limited budget of $1.5 million in student fee monies. The MLK plaza is located at the center, and crossroads, of a vast disbursed campus.
The project is extremely successful, both in symbolic and pragmatic ways. The centerpiece, a modest bust of Dr. King overlooks a reflecting pool which terminates in an inclined granite plane upon which a major segment of the I Have A Dream speech is inscribed. As one stands and reads the speech in the evening, the background is a vast western sky and typical beautiful Florida sunset. From the base of the bust emanate 5 granite bands which slice through the landscape, pointing toward 5 cities where important events occurred in Dr. King's life, the city name is inscribed at the terminus of each granite band.
The artist for the bust of Dr. King was Linda Ackley. The sculpture was originally cast with only the head and neck and was located outside the ADM building. ( you can find old photos in the archives and the B & W photo on p 168 of the 50th Anniversary book) It was part of the MKL Plaza, dedicated in 1982 as a Black Student Union and Student Government project. In 1995 when the students dedicated $1.8M CITF funds to upgrade the plaza with shade, seating, water, etc. part of the design included having the artist re-cast the sculpture into a bust with shoulders and chest. It was mounted at Dr. King's true height. The 5 granite bands that radiate out from it point to 5 significant cities in his life. The plaza was dedicated again after the renovation in November 1996. The general contractor was SL Construction.
The MLK Plaza is available for events.
Talk to an Event Planner today.