Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Centennial Square/ Plaza

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Institution Name: Pacific Lutheran University
Original/Historic Place Name: Red Square
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1980soriginal construction Unknown
Type of Place: Landscape site
Type of landscape–
Other characteristics:
Campus gathering place.
Materials: brick
ca. 1980-present (2007)outdoor space

Significance: education, history, landscape
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

Pacific Lutheran University's Red Square, the brick-layered area in front of Eastvold Auditorium, was renamed Centennial Plaza during PLU's 1990 centennial. The area includes a flag pavilion with three 35 foot flagpoles that fly the United States flag and the Washington State flag, along with the Norwegian flag to commemorate the Norwegian heritage of the university. It also includes a commemorative bell, five feet in height, made of copper-plated steel hanging from brick columns. This bell is rung at opening convocations to celebrate the beginning of the academic year and at commencement to celebrate the ending of the academic year.

Thomas Torrens, professor of art at PLU, designed the bell. Other designs by Professor Torrens in the Centennial Plaza include a bust of Martin Luther and a sculpture entitled "The Sisters." Close to the Centennial Plaza is the "Rune Stone Sculpture," made of copper-steel alloy. The rune stones, similar to those used by the Vikings, were designed to commemorate PLU's ethnic heritage, and the rune stones are inscribed when major events occur on campus, for instance the visit of King Olav V of Norway in 1975 and the visit of King Harald V and Queen Sonja in 1994.

The Centennial Plaza is a gathering place for the university. It is used for student protests, remembrances, and candle light vigils. During times of tragedy, such as 9/11, Centennial Plaza serves as a place where everyone comes together to pray. In the summer months, it is also a place where everyone gathers for festivals with live music performances.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Nordquist, Philip A. Educating for Service: Pacific Lutheran University, 1890-1990. Tacoma, WA: Pacific Lutheran University, 1990.

Schnackenberg, Walter C. The Lamp and the Cross: Sagas of Pacific Lutheran University, from 1890-1965. Tacoma, WA: Pacific Lutheran University, 1965.

II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections

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Last update: November 2006