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President’s Letter: Building Blocks

President Casteen Peggy Harrison

We have done a lot of building on the Grounds during my years as president. The new year brought a new beginning as the College’s South Lawn complex opened to students and faculty members. Nau and Gibson Halls, named for longtime backers John L. Nau III (Col ’68) and David Gibson (Col ’62), now house the departments of history, politics, and religious studies. A commons building that will include a 250-seat lecture hall will open in August. As the South Lawn grows in future years, it promises to become the College’s center.

These new buildings carry forward a strategy laid out in the early 1990s as we worked out how to sustain quality here as the state progressively cut support for its colleges and universities. Including new buildings now in construction, these 20 years have brought some 134 buildings altogether, including those built by the UVA Foundation and later purchased by the University and others purchased from other sources. Combined with additions to existing buildings, these new components of the extended Academical Village represent roughly 42 percent of the University’s total gross square footage.

I admire these new facilities for their close attachment to the original University and for their gentle coexistence with surrounding neighborhoods. Imagine an aerial view of the Academical Village, with Jefferson’s pavilions arrayed on either side of the Lawn, the Rotunda at the head. Below these buildings, on the lower Lawn, stand the three great academic buildings that Stanford White designed for the new University that emerged toward the end of the 19th century. Behind Rouss Hall, now restored and adapted to current uses, and all but invisible from the Lawn itself, Robertson Hall (2008) houses the McIntire School. As restored several years ago, Cocke Hall and Old Cabell Hall are virtually identical in appearance to what they were in 1898 or so, but inside they too are contemporary in every sense. Emerging from the back side of New Cabell Hall, a broad terrace across Jefferson Park Avenue connects the Central Grounds to the new South Lawn complex.

As the aerial camera pulls back, one can see the University as it was in 1960 or so, but with many new things hidden or fitted into the University’s older fabric. To the west, across McCormick Road, the Harrison Institute has replaced Miller Hall. The Small Special Collections Library (2004) sits beneath the ground in front of the Harrison Institute. Farther west, the expanding UVA Bookstore and Central Grounds parking garage (1994) stand on slopes that had proved unbuildable in earlier times. Across Emmet Street and a bit to the south, Bavaro Hall is nearing completion, and will soon provide new academic, research, and clinical space for the Curry School. Several new and expanded buildings serve Engineering and the sciences, most recent among them Wilsdorf Hall (2006). To the south of these buildings, our first two science buildings for the most advanced research now done in the College and Graduate School and in Engineering are under construction.

Turning north and crossing University Avenue, our aerial camera picks up the expanding Arts Grounds, extending along Rugby Road, clustered around the Art Museum and the School of Architecture, and soon to connect to the Drama facilities as a new theater and classroom building for dance go into construction this fall. Ruffin Hall (2008) now houses studio art. Two additions to Architecture’s Campbell Hall opened in 2008. Fayerweather Hall (Art History) has been rebuilt, and the University Art Museum was renovated last year. Below these buildings, the new Rehearsal Hall for the Cavalier Marching Band and other music programs is under construction. Farther west and north, the new Darden School, the new-within-old-walls Law School, and the JAG School form the University’s western boundary.

The growth within the complex of athletics facilities begins with the John Paul Jones Arena (2006), recently named Best New Arena of the decade by Sports Illustrated, and praised similarly for being the nation’s best new venue for concerts. Above the arena and across from University Hall, one sees Klöckner Stadium for soccer and lacrosse, the new baseball stadium and new track and field facilities. Tucked away behind the JAG School are fields for softball and recreational sports.

Southwest of the Lawn, the view leads to Scott Stadium, rebuilt and expanded as the core of the Carl Smith Center (2000), and often said to be the most beautiful stadium in the country. Across Whitehead Road from the stadium stands the Aquatics and Fitness Center (1996). Along Alderman Road, where new residence halls appeared in anticipation of coeducation in the late 1960s, one sees older buildings taken down and newer buildings going up as new technologies and heftier construction methods let us build a series of almost grand dormitories and a new commons building. The Observatory Hill Dining Hall that opened in 2005 has been recognized as the nation’s best building of its kind.

Looking east from the Lawn and across the original hospital and the multistory hospital built in the early 1950s, one sees the white hospital built in the 1990s, and the growing clusters of new clinical buildings and annexes, research labs, and (at last) ample parking facilities. The Claude Moore Nursing Education Building (2008) houses the Nursing School. Renovation of McLeod Hall should be complete in 2012. The Claude Moore Medical Education Building will be completed this spring, and the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center will be completed next year, to be followed by the new Children’s Hospital.

Away from the Grounds, new buildings in the research parks north and south of the Central Grounds provide space for medical and translational research and for dozens of corporate labs, incubators, and similar facilities. Growth has come in other areas of the state: the Northern Virginia Center built in Falls Church with Virginia Tech (1996), and the Anheuser-Busch Coastal Research Center in Oyster, Virginia (2006). The College at Wise has added 13 new buildings that, together with major additions built in the same period, now represent some 57 percent of Wise’s total gross square footage.

Watching this activity, I have begun to understand the subtle principles that guide this work. First, do no harm—to Mr. Jefferson’s conception of what a public university ought to be or to the surrounding neighborhoods; second, understand the work to be done in buildings before trying to conceive structures—form follows function; third, build for the long horizon, not for the near generation. The work goes on today, and will continue as the University’s future stewards guide it through this century and beyond. These are the blocks on which greatness stands.