Flowers line the new Chlois G. Ingram Park in front of the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Ornamental grasses wave in the breeze. Wooden benches invite people to stop and sit a while.
The park was named in honor of a long-time hospital volunteer. The center-piece of the 1.6-acre park is a unique water feature, a long, rectangular, gray fountain containing 1,500 tiles that seem to float beneath the surface.
"It represents the university's commitment to women's health over the past 30 years," said Dr. David Schuller, vice president of the OSU Wexner Medical Expansion.
But it's not the first time OSU built this park.
In 1999, it got off to a royal start when for the former Duchess of York created her own tile here while flashbulbs popped. Over the years, people paid between $25 and $500 to paint a tile in honor or memory of a beloved woman in their lives. In 2001 the tiles were cemented into concrete walls in the first women's park, a block west of the new location. That area is now a parking lot and construction zone.
Ohio State demolished the park in 2009 when it began a major medical center expansion.
Schuller said that he had a lot of meetings with upset donors. He promised something bigger and better.
But then, another problem.
"The original plan was to move those concrete walls. That was not going to be feasible, and we could not remove the tiles from the concrete. So we had to re-create the tiles, and that created quite an undertaking," Schuller said.
Two tiles had been bleached out by the sun. Others were cracked by years of exposure to weather.
"We ended up photographing, digitally photographing each and every tile," said Rick Espe, who directed the project for the MKSK landscape architecture firm.
The images then were shipped off to a Michigan company to re-create them in glass. Espe said it was one of only two companies in the country that do this kind of work.
Schuller said the university prefers to work with Ohio businesses if possible, but said, "For us to exactly duplicate what loved ones dedicated to the women in their lives, required us dealing with this company in that state up north."
The project was especially meaningful for Espe, whose wife, Morgan, fought a battle with ovarian cancer at the Ohio State University Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital while he worked on the design.
"Her spirit was infectious. She never complained about her disease or anything else. She was always quick to ask, how are you doing today?" he said.
Espe said that her fighting spirit inspired him to make this park beautiful for others.
"When I read the tiles here along the fountain, and the 1,500 families and loved ones who created these tiles, it just re-enforced everything she was to me," Espe said.
Schuller said that in the future OSU may let people create more tiles for the fountain in this $5.6 million park. Espe said that he wants to make a tile in memory of his wife.
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