by Zach Slonsky
The Oval is certainly a quintessential part of The Ohio State University’s campus. One could think of the space as a genius loci for the university, truly acting as a symbol for Ohio State. However, the Oval hasn’t always been the place it is today. This is a space that has been constantly evolving for more than a century. In the beginning there was only the library and University Hall in the area that defines the Oval today. This lawn outside was originally used for livestock to graze. It wasn’t until 1901 that this space began to resemble the oval shaped figural void that it is today. Back when the Oval started to become the Oval, it was nothing more than a grassy stretch of land adjacent to a number of important academic buildings. As it is still used today, faculty and students would use this space for anything between leisure activities to events put on by the university. The paths on this lawn began to evolve gradually from the natural circulation students had when traveling between classes.
These axes students created walking began to build relationships between the different buildings occupying the space as well as with the campus as a whole. Some examples of this would be the axes shared between the Thompson Library and High Street (the “long walk”), Derby and Orton Hall, and Hagerty and Hayes Hall. These axes help organize the space by defining certain boundaries. The long walk axis acts as a separation between north and south campus, and shows a clear symmetry between the two sides.
There are also several notable points on the lawn that help organize the space as well. For example, there are certain boulders such as the one outside Orton Hall, the latitude stone, or the Bucket and Dipper rock outside Pomerene hall. Some of these rocks mark historical significance, others stand in memory of our fallen students such as the class of 1892’s memorial rock that was retrofitted with a plaque in 1917 to honor those who fought in World War 1. Another rock that sits outside of Lazenby Hall marks the 1897 founding of the fraternity Alpha Zeta. Rocks aside, other points on the Oval still have significance. Trees such as the Five Brothers, Vietnam Memorial, or the Kittle Memorial Tree stand dedicated in remembrance of specific faculty members or students. Another important spot in the Oval is the Sphinx Plaza where a statue of William Oxley Thompson stands, acting a key monument for the Oval.
While Ohio State has many famous sites such as the Horseshoe, the RPAC, or the Wexner Center, what really distinguishes the Oval is that it isn’t a building at all. It is rather a prime example of effective and enduring landscape architecture. With an increasingly large student body every year, the Oval is important in contrasting against this city acting atmosphere. Having such a well maintained public green space in the midst of such a populated, fast-paced environment truly is a great amenity for the university.
Herrick, John H. “The OSU Oval.” The OSU Oval. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.
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