Graduate Life Center Plaza Amphitheatre, Virginia Tech
by Matthew N. Gart, ASLA


Built in the early 1980’s when College Avenue was closed between Squires Student Center and the Drill Field, the Library Plaza in Blacksburg, Virginia has long been a vibrant campus space at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech).


Vicinity of the project on VA Tech campus. Image courtesy Matthew N. Gart.

Located at a cross point within the plaza is an amphitheatre that was intended as a space for casual recreation and conversation. For the most part, the plaza still functions extremely well; however, the area around the amphitheatre does not. There are accessibility issues, maintenance concerns, and a lack of programming over the years that have prevented the amphitheatre area from realizing its full potential as a campus civic space.

Existing plaza aerial photo. Image courtesy Matthew N. Gart.


Existing amphitheatre aerial photo. Image courtesy Matthew N. Gart.


Existing lawn area. Image courtesy Matthew N. Gart.

The Class of 1959 elected to fund the renovation of this space as a 50 year reunion gift. The Graduate Life Center (GLC) has also provided funding because the space will likely see heavy use by GLC residents that recently occupied an adjacent building. The amphitheatre will be renamed “the GLC Plaza Amphitheatre.”

Project and Programming Vision

The GLC Plaza Amphitheatre is envisioned as an even greater hub of energy and activity than it is now for educational, cultural, and social events for Virginia Tech students, faculty and staff, and those in the surrounding community. It is centrally located in a highly trafficked and visible area near Squires Student Center, the University Library, the Bookstore, the GLC and Downtown Blacksburg. Modification of this space will enhance its appearance and use and create a more inviting and vibrant common area.


Planned plaza view. Image courtesy Matthew N. Gart.

Implementation Plan

The existing sunken brick amphitheatre and fountain will be demolished. The area will be raised to grade and paved with locally produced tumbled pavers. The expansive paver plaza will require removal of a mature London Planetree but with 14 tree cutouts in the plaza, there will be no net loss of basal tree area. A simple fountain will be placed on the axis of the Library Plaza, creating a focal point. A hedge adjacent to the existing bookstore will be removed to open the lawn adjacent to that building for use as a sculpture display/ garden space.


Planned amphitheatre view. Image courtesy Matthew N. Gart.

Modeled after a European outdoor café, the cobbled paver area will create a gathering place for dining, entertainment, and conversation. The addition of a performance stage with lights and a power pedestal will add greater appeal and functionality and will serve as the focal point of the area. A lawn seat built into the slight grade adjacent to the stage will provide a shady place to study or view a performance.


Planned stage and lawn area. Image courtesy Matthew N. Gart.

While not a true LEED project, the work will embrace many sustainable design principles. The demolished brick may be crushed and used as paver base or for structural soil; paver materials, precast concrete and site furnishings will be locally produced; and native plant material will be installed, with existing plant materials reused elsewhere on campus. Stormwater infiltration strips will be designed into the paver bands.

Project Schedule, Budget, and Design Credits

Construction is scheduled to begin early summer of 2009, with completion in October 2009. The construction budget is $330,000.

Matthew N. Gart ASLA, the Virginia Tech Campus Landscape Architect designed the project, and Colley Architects, (Blacksburg, Virginia) and Gay and Neel (Christiansburg, Virginia) prepared the final bid documents.

Matthew N. Gart, ASLA, is Campus Landscape Architect at Virginia Tech and may be reached at:

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Dean Gregory, ASLA, Chair
(604) 822-7913