Arlington, VA (2007)

Client: Arlington Economic Development

George Mason University has been undergoing a major expansion in Arlington County at their campus located on Fairfax Drive. Building on their completed law school, the second phase of the plan involved the construction of a new classroom facility, which would also include facilities accessible to the broader community such as an auditorium and multipurpose room, as well as an approximately 20,000 square foot plaza. This plaza is intended to be the focal point not just of the campus, but also the growing Virginia Square community around it. Unfortunately, the design of the plaza proceeded well into construction drawings without much public input.

Programming plan for the public plaza.

In 2007, Arlington County and George Mason University asked PPS to help inform the design, program of uses and management for their future plaza. In June of 2007, PPS facilitated a forum bringing together representatives of Arlington County government and George Mason University to discuss how the plaza will function, who will use it and how it will be used both by students and the general public.

Building on this initial work, and working with Alan Hantman, the Architect of the Capitol, PPS was asked to facilitate a public workshop to help the plaza’s targeted users develop a vision for the plaza and a program of desired uses. University faculty, staff and students, community members, civic organizations, and county representatives came together to envision the future of the public plaza—a gathering place that will build community within the Arlington campus and the Virginia Square community as a whole. The major conclusion was that the space should be flexible, welcoming and a place to meet.


The new GMU Law School’s existing plaza will be expanded and animated.

PPS mapped out the desired uses and activities that were identified in the workshops and stakeholder meetings, and worked with the project architects to modify the plans. Recommendations included designing some areas for more passive and quiet pursuits, while others were identified for actively programmed staged events, fairs, and university or community celebrations. These areas required a more flexible design than had originally been provided for.