The CommonGround

LAND COLLECTIVE: On the morning of July 29, from 11 AM to 1:30 PM, the community of Eskenazi Health, civic leaders, and designers came together to celebrate the opening of The Commonground, a civic gathering place focused on community, serenity and wellness for patients, visitors and employees of the Eskenazi Health campus. The opening included all of the best programming that the plaza has to offer: healthy food demonstrations, morning yoga, live entertainment by the Indianapolis Opera, and local farmers and vendors of the Eskenazi Health Farmer’s Market (which is present at the plaza each Tuesday).

David Rubin, principal of the landscape architecture and urban design studio LAND COLLECTIVE, was lead designer for the project, continuing a long relationship with Eskenazi Health that began in 2009, when he was equity Partner at Olin. The plaza includes a trellis structure and café designed by architects Diller, Scofidio, + Renfro and two fountains done in collaboration with Jim Garland of Fluidity Design Consultants. The Commonground is the final phase of a 1.3-million square foot expansion to the hospital which was completed in early 2013 by architects HOK.

Rubin’s design of The Commonground embodies LAND COLLECTIVE’s ethos of empathy-driven design and Eskenazi Health’s commitment and pride in its services to all people—regardless of social or economic standing. On any given day at any given time, the place with the most diversity in the entire city of Indianapolis is the Eskenazi Health campus.

At the opening ceremony, Rubin said of the plaza: “Here, pedagogy and social purpose are integrally woven together. The Commonground models a philosophy that landscape is a democratic environment in which everyone has an opportunity to participate. It is designed to support the ethos of Eskenazi Health and the diverse population of the city it serves in a physically and philosophically meaningful way.”

The Commonground is just over an acre large and located adjacent to a historic Olmsted Brothers’ landscape which is part of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. As part of the design guidelines which Rubin developed for the entirety of the Hospital Campus, a new Wellness Trail helps connect the new hospital to its community and the City’s cultural amenities and developing Cultural Trail. The new campus, including the plaza and facility expansion by HOK, is now on track to become the first LEED® Silver certified hospital campus in the country.

Principal David Rubin participated on the Eskenazi Health Art Selection Committee and took an active role in Eskenazi Health Hospital Foundation’s fund-raising efforts. The $2.9 million dollar project was underwritten by philanthropic supporters, a portion of which David Rubin helped to procure. Eskenazi Health Hospital reports that The Commonground was completed in the lower 25th percentile of construction costs nationally.

The central feature of the plaza is a metal trellis designed by Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, which also houses a café for Duos, a “slow-food” café. The trellis has four distinct zones, with a central green that unites the space to make it usable for flexible program including morning yoga, performances, dining, private respite, and a weekly Farmer’s Market. Multiple species of vines selected by LAND COLLECTIVE are planted at the base of the trellis, and form shaded quadrants throughout the seasons.

A collaboration with Jim Garland of Fluidity Design Consultants rendered two distinctly different fountains which embrace the site to the north and south. The ebbing pool of the Healing Waters scrim fountain makes allegorical reference to the Pool of Bethesda, a point of rejuvenation. CNC-routed molds formed cast concrete blocks, creating a continuous rivulet which is flush with grade. Words by poet Mitchell L. H. Douglas surround the stone edge of the fountain; the poem is not fully revealed until the waters recede. The Falls fountain is a living landscape of wetland plantings with seven waterfalls cascading over Indiana Limestone blocks. Adjacent to the fountain and under the shade of Kentucky Coffee trees, flexible café seating provides a calm setting for employees and patrons of the hospital to enjoy outdoor dining.

Recognizing the role of nutrition in maintaining health and fostering community, the project has a productive landscape which serves the community and patients. The 5,000 square foot Sky Farm, a harvestable garden on the roof of the Eskenazi Health Outpatient Care Center, is a place of hope and healing for patients, and the food grown there serves the plaza’s café, Duos, among other outlets. The Sky Farm was developed in collaboration with HOK, as part of the new Eskenazi Health Outpatient Care Center.

Landscape Architecture: LAND COLLECTIVE (Principal David Rubin)
In addition to LAND COLLECTIVE’s design leadership, the design team included:
Trellis architects: Diller, Scofidio + Renfro
Executive landscape architects: Olin
Local landscape architects: RATIO and Context,
Fountain designers: Fluidity Design Consultants,
Lighting designers: Tillett Lighting,
Building architects: HOK
Location: Indianapolis / Indiana / USA
Construction: 2014
Photos and text: LAND COLLECTIVE

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