From the parking lot of the University, a large mound, a tower and a field of posts are visible in the midst of seven hundred acres of flat, former prairie. The posts have been cut to achieve a perfectly level plane that contrasts with the subtle contouring of the land in which they sit; they are four feet tall at one end, and sixteen feet tall at the other. The difference in height reveals the sloping topography of the field that would otherwise be barely noticeable. These posts, which have a familiar relation to the local landscape as utility poles and property markers, trace the space of the field rather than fill it.
The earth mound at the center of the field is notable in the context of the flat terrain. Curiosity may provoke someone surveying this view to approach and enter the field. Only by drawing near to the top of the mound is there the surprise discovery – an irregularly shaped sunken court below with ladders for entry. The descent into the courtyard offers an intimate interior after the exposure and vulnerability of the open landscape. It is a place to occupy as well as something to look at. Within this interior space are platform walkways and a twelve foot deep central well with a protruding ladder. The well allows the descent to continue visually or physically; the level of water in it reflects the amount of rain that has fallen recently.
The courtyard embedded in the mound, whether viewed from above or occupied below, juxtaposes nature and artifice – at once physically integrated into the land and at the same time obviously constructed. Away from the main activity of the campus this recessed courtyard is a refuge in the landscape that also provides a means of seeing it from a new point of view. The experiences available by moving through the structure and its surroundings are more important than what the structure is in itself.