Abilene Christian University GATA Fountain
Abilene Christian University (ACU) is one of the largest private universities in the Southwestern United States. In the heart of ACU’s campus, a new basketball coliseum is being constructed, welcoming the next era of sports and community at the school.
In front of the structure in progress, a water feature representing Girls Aid to Athletics (GATA) stands ready to hand over the guard. According to ACU, GATA, established in 1920, is the oldest continuously named women’s social club on the school’s campus. Its members “share a bold heritage of Christian sisterhood and a proud legacy of love, friendship and service that extends around the world.”
The club gifted the original fountain to the university in 1970, and in 1980, to celebrate GATA’s 60th anniversary and ACU’s 75th, GATA established a permanent endowment fund for fountain renovations. In celebration of Homecoming 1998, the fountain was reconstructed and dedicated.
Nearly a quarter century later, the time had come to replace the commemorative fountain once again with an amenity grand enough to serve as the centerpiece of the new building – one that represented the project’s value as well as its connection with GATA.
Joining forces with general contractor Hoar Construction, landscape architect Coleman & Associates, and designer Michael Webb (our new director of engineering, who at the time was working elsewhere), OTL was brought in to build the campus’ new GATA fountain.
Constructed of precast concrete, tile, and Coldspring granite, the fountain features a precast bench displaying the GATA symbol of a wide red diamond overlaid with the white GATA acronym. Crystal DMX lighting is combined with RGBW lighting to equip the water feature’s lights with every color in the spectrum.
The fountain itself is highlighted by a dentil pattern—a small block used as a repeating ornament in the bedmould of a cornice, often found in Greek and Roman architecture. The dentil is created by cut granite stone, which forms a serrated discharge of water across the feature’s three extended weirs. Water fills an upper trough to then pass through the dentil granite-cut stone at the weirs’ edge, allowing water to cascade to the three adjoined basins two feet below. Attached behind the basins is the GATA bench, part of a sitting area for those on campus to rest and enjoy the water feature’s sights and sounds.
During the build, the design and construction team found themselves facing numerous challenges. One was logistical, as the center of campus contained only one entrance/exit, which created traffic jams and bottlenecks for the multiple trades simultaneously working on both the coliseum and the fountain in the same small area.
Another challenge the team faced was working around the existing utilities infrastructure of an operating campus. This required careful engineering, planning and maneuvering to avoid inadvertently damaging chilled water lines and to keep the systems operating as normal.
Today’s GATA fountain maintains the legacy of this historical social club while heralding the next generation of athletes to enter ACU’s freshly minted coliseum.
The water feature, a beautiful tribute to both the school’s history and the new coliseum, marries tradition and modernity into one endearing project that will serve the university, its students, faculty, and visitors as a central gathering place for many years to come.
- Architectural Fountain