Still the Lawn
More responses from readers describing their favorite spots at U.Va.Posted 3/28/07
Photo by Dan Addison.
I'm so glad you asked.
I really like the quotes engraved in the buildings around Grounds. I especially like the one on New Cabell, “You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” (Woodrow Wilson). I have been hoping that the designers plan to put this quote elsewhere, as I understand New Cabell is being replaced.
Sarah Looney (Government, Psychology ’03)
My favorite place on Grounds is actually underground — the stacks at Alderman Library. A student can get lost in learning there. I have vivid recollections of descending into the stacks at noon to work on a research project. I would lose all sense of time until emerging after dark with a great sense of peace and accomplishment. Though I have tried, I have rarely found such uninterrupted time for learning since those days underground!
Alyssa Love (English, MT English Education ’95)
I love the entirety of the core campus, its harmony and serenity. Perhaps my favorite single spot, however, is the garden below the East Lawn where the parapet from Oxford stands. I love the variety of trees and plants, the gravel walk, the simple benches. I love that there’s the ancient parapet from Oxford symbolizing the link between their university and ours, between England and Virginia, between the centuries, united in the search for truth, beauty and knowledge. Over the past 35 years I’ve spent many an hour there reflecting under sun and moon, and when I die, my ashes will be scattered there.
Robert A. Rankin (MA Government ’74)
What I love about Grounds is the Romanesque architecture. It is very beautiful and very elegant. I believe it gives Grounds a bit of prestige that everyone loves.
The white columns and brick buildings are great.
I love Clark library because of the murals (despite the fact that many are naked) and the feel of the library.
Brown and old dorms really carry over that U.Va. feel and romanesque look. Cocke Hall looks lovely after its renovations.
I love old Cabell as well — it is just gorgeous ... Wilson could use a sprucing ... and New Cabell is way too hot.
Tori White (College ’10)
My favorite thing on Grounds is the Rotunda. I would walk to class and pass by the Rotunda and its beauty would give me a surge of energy, and it seemed like all my stress would melt away. Another great place is the “secret garden” which is hidden in between the art museum and the fine arts library. There is a little garden with a sitting area. It is very peaceful and quiet. I hope it is still there. I know they were doing a lot of construction near that area the semester I graduated.
Ingrid A. Marable (Drama, English ’05)
The garden behind Pavilion II — I got my Hokie-fan boyfriend to admit one spring night, sitting on the bench under the stars, that Tech doesn’t have anything like that and never will.
Becky Shields (Government and Foreign Affairs ’01, MA Art History ’06)
A quick thought about Grounds: Light binds us together. It’s a fundamental force of the Universe. Without it, we wouldn’t exist. I think Jefferson understood this as he designed his buildings to utilize as much natural light as possible. The best elements of Grounds — the second floor of the Special Collections Library, the Amphitheater, the Colonnades, the Gardens, etc. — all wholeheartedly embrace light. Beyond that, though, it’s important that windows, and light in general, lead to nature. This, I believe, is the biggest failing of such modern construction monstrosities as New Cabell Hall: when you look outside, there is nothing inspiring about the environment. What a regrettable place! The Lawn Gardens, on the other hand, are full of natural inspiration. Light, nature and people. I think it’s more than possible to fit them together harmoniously.
Jason Amirhadji (English ’08)
The piano room in Newcomb Hall is the most peaceful room at the University. Always serene, and occasionally graced by one of the University’s many talented piano players, it is the perfect place to study, nap, read for pleasure or just go for some sense of perspective. The Beast’s Library had nothing on this room.
Becca Garrison (English ’08)
My favorite place on Grounds is the grassy area between Brooks Hall and the Corner where people picnic when it’s sunny, play Frisbee and lie around with pets and children. My favorite element of the grassy, open area is that there are marble slabs with poems and other quotes sunken into the grass, such as Marianne Moore’s “Virginia Britannia,” that are not very noticeable unless you’re truly strolling aimlessly on a sunny day. My second favorite location on Grounds is the Dell between Lambeth House and the Curry School. It’s so peaceful and beautiful. I love the pond, the willow trees and the “crumbling architectural features” that haven’t been completely removed by development.
Heather Burdette (English ’07, Curry ’08)
When I matriculated to the University in September 1977, the only part of the Grounds I had previously seen was University Hall when my high school played in the state basketball championship in 1970. My mom dropped me off at Tuttle on Move-In Day and I spent the rest of the day setting up and getting to know my roommate.
I woke early the next morning and thought “I’m going to check out this ‘Lawn’ that everyone keeps talking about.” It was a quiet, hazy and warm late-summer morning. I walked down McCormick Road and approached the Lawn from the west side. As I stepped out of one of the alleys onto the Lawn, my breath caught and I said “Oh!” Sunbeams shone through the hazy east side trees. I looked left at the Rotunda and right at Old Cabell and Homer. Then I understood why everyone talked about the Lawn.
Tom Justice (English ’77)
The Amphitheatre: A great place for: U.Va. under the Stars concert/movies in the summer; hanging out between classes and chatting/people watching; napping; a place where we could occasionally persuade teachers/seminar leaders to hold classes on beautiful spring days.
Kris Nanda (History ’81, Law ’85)
My favorite place is the quad with the libraries and the Comm school surrounding it. I feel so lucky to be a student when I stand and see so much going on around me.
Emily Bergland (College ’09)
PS: I love Mad Bowl too.
May I add something to my response about my favorite place on the Grounds? I also loved to sit in the small auditorium in Old Cabell Hall during concerts and gaze at all the ancient philosophers in the full-size reproduction on stage of the fantastic “School of Athens” painting by Raphael. Plato and Aristotle dominate but Raphael wisely placed no human being in the center where all the lines of perspective vanish at infinity. I have spent many hours pondering that painting, and some of us on West Range in 1954-57 had small reproductions made to place on the mantels above our fireplaces. U.Va. was where we learned to think deep thoughts, and everything at the Academical Village fostered our search for knowledge and understanding of the human condition. Thanks to The Eternal for the gift of Jefferson’s University.
Henry W. Gould (Mathematics ’54, MA ’56)
My favorite places on Grounds: the gingko tree near the Rotunda, the Lawn at night and the benches in the gardens, where you can study, read a book or chat with a friend.
Arielle Myhre (Cognitive Science ’05)
Is there room for a suggestion to improve the Grounds? Handicapped accessibility for those who are in wheelchairs as well as those with limited walking ability (using a cane or walker) is a real issue.
Linda Martin Warner (MA Public Administration ’99)
The Amphitheatre during spring when the U-guides would give tours and tell all the prospective students the same funny stories and legends that I was told when I visited. I loved overhearing them and seeing the wide-eyed looks of those 17- year-olds when they found out what the Z was for and why IMP and 7 were tagged all over the buildings.
The oversized window bays in New Cabell where I could read between classes and maybe take a nap. They were so cozy, and I especially loved overlooking the area between Old and New Cabell. It was like a secret place out in the open and so impossible to find your way between the two buildings even though they were so close to each other!
Alderman stacks (second floor) with the desks that had the tiny slivers of glass so you could have some semblance of what time of the day it was! The musty silence. The graffiti scrawlings on the walls next to the desks because they were so varied and fun to read ... so many would be childish or X-rated but always mixed in with quotes from Sylvia Plath and Gandhi. It was always a fun distraction when you knew this was a desk reserved for a Ph.D. student and you would look at his/her books and gain an idea of the wonderful (and sometimes ridiculously esoteric) subjects they were studying.
Thanks for letting me share! It brought back some great memories!
Lucia Cruz (Women’s Studies ’04)
The garden behind Pavilion III, especially in the springs and summers. It was designed as an English (informal) garden and was located near the Chapel. Looking up from its Chinese Chippendale benches in the afternoons, one could only see tree foliage and the steeple, and hear the Chapel bells. I was reading English history at the time, and often felt that I had strayed into an English village. What an extraordinary sense of peace I felt in those moments.
Patricia Ferguson Watkinson (PhD History ’01)
Since no one else mentioned it, I'll have to weigh in a second time with my second-favorite place, the great half-round room under the auditorium of Old Cabell Hall. In my day it was a snack bar. The memories are still very sweet of cream cheese and olive sandwiches on toast, so precious that one nibbled at them to make them last, looking up at the Piranesi-like ceiling with its arches and rough stonework. Bliss.
Thanks for publishing all these recollections. They warm the heart.
Richard McClintock (Classics ’66, MA ’67)
It was a brisk fall evening when I flew from New York City to DC, surprised and kidnapped my girlfriend and headed west on 66 and then south down Rte29. A little over 90 minutes later, some time around 11:00 p.m., we were leaning against the double doors of the Rotunda facing the lawn and drinking champagne. It was at this time that I chose to propose to my wife.
After being married for 14 years, we still go to that very spot, take a seat and share some wonderful memories which we have also had the wonderful privilege to share with our two children.
Jeff Henriksen (Rhetoric and Communication Studies ’88)
PS: Thanks for the opportunity to take five minutes out of my busy day to resurrect this wonderful memory.
Although I haven’t retained many friends from my days at U.Va., and though I’ve returned only infrequently, as I read through the many responses that you’ve received to date, it occurred to me how much a part of me the architecture and ambiance of the Grounds have become and how deeply affected I am by my four years there, roaming among the grandiose trees, watching the squirrels bury their treasures for retrieval on cold winter days, appreciating the greenery of the boxwoods as they were covered in snow, delighting in the smells of the magnolias as they bloomed in the spring. These sights and sounds will forever be with me, wherever I am in the world and regardless of whether friendships endure. It may sound like a cliché, but as inexorably as the seasons changed the landscape on the Grounds, my short time at U.Va. shaped my future and made me who I am today.
There are many special places on the Grounds, all of which have been mentioned by previous respondents, but what brings them all together and makes them truly special is the magnificent landscaping. Without the trees, bushes and gardens, the buildings would simply be buildings, historical, perhaps, and architecturally interesting, but still, inanimate objects. The landscaping imbues them with life, smell, shadows, beauty and special sense of uniqueness. I visited the Grounds in 2005, as part of a college tour for my daughter and was dismayed to see that so many of the huge oaks formerly between the old dorms are now gone. Even on the Lawn, there are huge gaps where majestic oaks once stood. Whatever you decide to do with the buildings, please make sure to preserve the landscaping and invest in it for the generations of Wahoos to come.
Please share my thanks with all of the others that responded. Their eloquence engendered in me a depth of emotion and nostalgia for the Grounds that I didn’t know existed.
Eric M. Haldimann (Latin American Studies ’82)
Running on O-Hill. I felt like I was miles away in the mountains.
Larry Huffman (Environmental Sciences ’83, Civil Engineering ’88)
Walking to and from class meant walking through greenery, seeing mature trees and shrubs that were as old as the University. I was privileged enough to live on the Lawn in my final year — but even before that I loved walking past the places students lived, and where teachers’ offices kept a steady but uncrowded sense of people coming and going in the Academical Village. I found there at U.Va. my first chance to experience what is now called “the built environment” in harmony with nature — and picked up what has become a life long delight in trees (my first ginko!) and camellias, and the gardens of the pavilions, too. I hope the South Lawn does not go “all modern” on us — with concrete, glass and hard edges, and artificial landscaping. Keep the architectural integrity of Mr. Jefferson's vision, please!
Catherine (Burke) Sweet (Government ’77)
The Chapel, not just because I got married there Jan. 13, 2007, but also because of memories from times I spent there as a student. I sang with Jubilate for three years, and when I think about singing “Silent Night” by candlelight standing around the back and sides of the Chapel, it still gives me chill bumps and brings tears to my eyes. The peace and beauty and intimacy of that building made it the perfect place both for our wedding and for so many blessed times of fellowship with friends while I was a student.
Nicki (Baran) Shepard (Psychology, Classics ’05)
My favorite place on Grounds is the “cubicle” between the bookshelves on the top floor of the Rotunda with the window overlooking the Lawn. I vividly recall looking at that spot during the information session for prospective students and thinking, “I want to study RIGHT THERE.” The idea that I could look up and see much the same view that a student from Jefferson’s own time saw was irresistible to someone desperate to become part of the pervasive nostalgia of Virginia. I did actually study there, on two very deliberate occasions over my four years at U.Va. I remember going back to my dorm and thinking that those study sessions felt very forced (and not particularly productive). Fifteen years later, they feel like two of the most satisfying moments on Grounds.
Justin Garr (English ’94)
It’s not really like me to point to something and say “that’s my favorite,” but the Lawn will always have a special place in my heart. My last experience with it as a student might be my fondest memory of it: trudging from the Rotunda toward Old Cabell Hall through ankle-deep water and mud in the pouring rain on a May afternoon, with all of my friends around me, ready to graduate, and loving every second.
Chris Spillman (Government Honors, Economics ’03)
The Lawn on that first warm day after a cold winter. Everyone would be outside in their shorts and flip flops with their frisbees; Speidel, Goodrich and Goggin would be playing; students would enjoy the music. Study or just hang out. I feel certain that that is what T.J. had in mind when he designed the “Academical Village.”
Linda Schorsch Jones (English ’86)
My favorite place on Grounds is the Pavilion garden where my housemates and I hosted a graduation party for our parents immediately after graduation, May 20, 1984. A dozen of us organized the party (I think I was responsible for securing the garden — did it involve waiting on line?) The party was lovely and we all felt so grown-up. (More grown-up, in some ways, than I do right now.)
So, you ask, which garden was it? The most beautiful one, the best one — I could walk you there — but the number of the Pavilion escapes me. I visit it every time I am in Charlottesville. (Which is not as often as I wish, alas.)
Liz Marshall (English ’84)
One of my favorite places at Virginia: “under the truth.” Ernest Mead’s office in Old Cabell Hall was directly under “the truth” in the pediment carving “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” “Under the truth” is where Mr. Mead imparted his great wisdom and helped to shape innumerable young lives — including my own. The view wasn’t bad either.
Jay Sanne (English ’93, MS McIntire ’05)
First: the gateway that says “Enter by this gateway ...." I did enter by that gateway every chance I could get. No mention of what happens if you exit by that gateway, which I usually tried to avoid.
Second: 23 West Range, easily one of the coolest places I have ever lived.
Favorite things, now all sadly gone: TKE, Easters, the Pep Band.
Susan B. Potter (Foreign Affairs ’80, Law ’83)
My favorite place is one that hasn’t been mentioned. It is the water towers on top of O-Hill, just below the Observatory. It was a quiet, peaceful place and the view was beautiful on a dark, clear night. You could sit down and look out over Charlottesville and the University lit up in the night and still see the stars above. It was one of the few uncrowded and serene places on grounds where you could be alone with your thoughts or share the view with someone special.
Troy Mohler (Biology ’00, Medicine ’05)
Alas, mine is gone now (or going, I suppose? I’m not sure ...). University Hall was the site of so many wonderful memories for me as a men’s basketball manager back in the mid-’80s. We had Ralph Sampson, a Final Four team, great memories of beating Carolina when they were ranked #1 — what more could you ask for? I am so thankful that I got a commemorative piece of the basketball floor after the final games had been played there — for me, that embodies memories of what I thought of as “home” during my years at U.Va. (Well, “home” doesn't usually smell like sweaty uniforms, and you can’t see your floors “move” in the dark from the cockroaches running across them, but still ....)
I would never have thought of this one myself, but after reading the comments from other graduates, I have to concur about the huge, deep window wells in New Cabell Hall. They were a wonderful refuge — a great place to get yourself re-organized after coming inside from a rainy or snowy walk to class; a private haven to kill an hour between classes when you didn’t have quite enough time to walk over to Newcomb Hall for lunch and back; a wide, roomy spot to catch a little nap after an all-night cramming session. Perhaps the maintenance staff hated them, but honestly, they always seemed remarkably well kept, too, for all the use they got. I hope the architects designing the new Project will keep those window wells in mind. New Cabell may have had its problems, but don't throw the baby out with the bath water! Save the window wells, save the world!
Mary Ann (Corbett) Avery (Echols, Psychology ’86)
I’m afraid that I can’t remember the name of the garden, but I always LOVED the stillness, peace and spirit of the garden with the old church spire. It was always rejuvenating for me to go there and be quiet in the frenetic times of my college days. It was also a place that I loved to share with other students — who had not yet discovered. Every time that I’m back in C’ville, I make a stop by this lovely “wild” space that feels as though it could be in the middle of a pine forest.
Justine Beck Rose (Political and Social Thought, Religious Studies ’85)
I recently returned to Charlottesville after many years to purchase a home. One evening, my sister and I were driving around the North Grounds because I had not seen that part of the campus since the late ’70s. I was stunned by the beauty of the law and business school complexes, especially at night. I particularly appreciate how similar the architecture is to Mr. Jefferson’s original campus, which I believe is one of the most beautiful in the country.
Laura Burrows (Psychology ’79)
The McGregor Room, with its rich colors, cozy chairs and air of quiet tranquility and intellectualism. The top of Monroe Hill on a crisp fall day, watching as the clouds pass by. The Amphitheatre in spring, where students capture the euphoria carried on a warm breeze. Bonnycastle Circle on Saturday mornings, where Alpha Phi Omega meets every Saturday before embarking on their weekly community service projects. The sidewalks, where bumping into a friend can be enough to make your day. The West Range Cafe, the perfect place to enjoy a cup of coffee. And of course, the Rotunda, which never ceases to inspire endless imaginations and dreams and always fill hearts and minds with a feeling of awe and intensity.
Naomi Huntington (History ’09)
In the eight months of being away, the thing I remember most about Grounds were the trees that lined the walkways and the Lawn. I think if students planted trees along the new South Lawn project terrace and lawn then it would be all the more appropriate as I think Thomas Jefferson always thought of the college as the students’ University in all shapes and forms. Furthermore, my favorite thing about Grounds was always being able to find a nook, cranny or space available to study outside that were always gorgeous in their own way — too many to count. I would hope that the new project continues this practice and provides ample “study areas” throughout the area.
Thanks for doing this.
David T. Booker (History, Foreign Affairs ’06)
PS: Alabama and the Deep South (my current location) do not hold a candle to U.Va. I miss it deeply.
Three images come to mind when I think of my favorite place on the Grounds. I attended U.Va. 1972-76, so the Rotunda was behind construction barricades for most of my time. Right before it was closed for renovation I wandered by on a Sunday evening before dark. The building was open, and only Jefferson’s statute remained to be moved out. I sat in the window over the Lawn door to the Rotunda for quite a while just watching the Lawn. No one else was in the building.
My favorite spot on the formal Grounds was a garden on the west side of the Lawn from which a huge, old wisteria vine grew up into a large tree which was growing behind the Lawn rooms. The tree was very large and its branches extended over the buildings so as to shade the Lawn. The wisteria grew with the tree. One spring day you could see the blossoms from the vine following the tree up from the garden, over the path, through the tree branches and reaching over the Lawn. It may not have been as I recall, but the memory is very vivid. Few people seemed to go into the gardens. The privacy one could find there and the thoughtful layouts really did provide needed space.
My favorite retreat was one of the water towers on Observatory Hill. Great spot for privacy and a view. It was close but very far away.
Each of these places gave me a sense of privacy, in what was even then a very densely populated place.
Jane Ferguson Klamer (Religious Studies ’76)
The Lawn has a life of its own. And it hasn’t changed since 1940.
Paul Lyday (College ’44)
The Grounds of U.Va. present many fine buildings that are not only pleasing to the eye on the exterior but attractive on the interior as well. One of these simple buildings is Cocke Hall, the redesigned home of the classics and philosophy departments. The solid wood floors and random busts of noted philosophers represent the typical and creative beauty of the building. For those who do not have class there, stop in and explore for a minute or two.
Thomas Rooney (College ’08)
I love the brick pathway, the lawn areas and the large trees behind the Rotunda near the Chapel. For me, it is the idyllic landscape of the ideal college.
Kevin Mitchell (Cognitive Science ’04, MA Religious Studies ’09)
There are so many places that I love at U.Va. Obviously, I love the Lawn. It has to be the first place I think of when I think of U.Va. It means home to me in a way few places can. The gardens, especially the cannonball self-closing gates and the McGuffey Ash — though I always felt more comfortable in the gardens that were divided between the range area and the Pavilion. And despite the fact that its construction violated Jefferson’s vision, I love Cabell Hall with the Cave, the window seats and the wonderful theatre where I had my first experience of U.Va. when I came for a Moliere play with my French class. The Amphitheatre where we played Frisbee with our first dog. Clark Hall with the inscription “That those alone may be servants of the law who labor with learning, courage and devotion to preserve liberty and promote justice.” Alderman Library — especially the card catalogs that no longer exist (I know the computer system is more efficient — I helped with the initial development — but there’s something about card catalogs, just like there’s something about the feel of the book in your hand). And there is a special place in my heart for what I called Garrett Hall Annex Annex Basement Corner Closet Extended — my first office when I worked in the computer department after graduation. It was under the bicycle parking lot next to Garrett Hall.
Wow, this question really makes me want to come back to U.Va. and wander the Grounds. From Dunnington where I lived first year, up O-Hill and through the walking paths in the woods. Back down along McCormick Road past the Physics Building where my husband spent so many hours. Look down on the tennis courts behind the dorms where we used to play tennis early in the morning, our dog tied to the fence outside. Cross the Ed School bridge to Newcomb Hall and browse in the old basement bookstore. Then on to the Lawn and the Range, pausing in each garden. Past the Chapel, the Rotunda and the gingko trees to the Corner. I’d like to have Sunday brunch at the Virginian again and a Banana Royale sundae at HoJos. Then walk back down the Lawn to a play in Cabell Hall. Afterwards, I’d cross JPA to Oakhurst Circle, past those neat old houses on Gildersleeve Wood, back to JPA on Valley Road and then I’m just a few steps from the wonderful old house with the huge porch and the bay windows where my husband and I rented the first floor. Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane.
Julie Gilkeson Ritenour (Echols, English ’78)
I enjoyed nearly all of the Grounds! As a first yearman, I particularly enjoyed the fun of discovering all sorts of “new” places: The many buildings; the architecture; new little reading rooms with fabulous old magazines; the gardens; the little cemetery near the first-year dorms; the furniture here and there; the nickel Coke machine at the Rotunda; the four seasons, and ambience and academic community atmosphere which was all-pervasive. The mixture of fun and serious work offered all a chance to learn how to think, rather than instinctively relying upon facts to reveal answers.
As far as the current architects are concerned (I may be in the minority), for what it is worth, please let them know that I personally do not like visual clashes of modern, or primarily functional, or interpretive architecture in the setting of the Grounds. There are enough buildings which lack harmony with the original Jeffersonian designs, and I implore the decision-makers to go the extra distance, spend the extra time and money to be architecturally more consistent with the style of the original buildings, or in the very least, to make a great effort to harmonize better with the University’s very special and unique original architectural heritage.
Mark P. Ettinger (College ’67)
1. The small room at the top of the Special Collections library. It has only four chairs, has an old clock that doesn’t work anymore and a showcase with lots of old books. It also has a nice view out into the area in front of Alderman and the Special Collections Library.
2. My other favorite place is the large chamber with murals on the walls in Clark before you go into Brown Library. The lighting could be better at night, but I really, really enjoy the skylights during the day. The chairs there are very comfortable and also sleep-conducive as well.
Alec Landow (College ’10)
As a graduate English student in the late ’50s, I loved everything about the Grounds. I had come from central Texas and being at The University was rebirth. Browning’s line “How strange it seems (seemed?), and new” rang in my head over and over as I traversed the Long Walk on my way to my apartment on (West?) Main Street. I loved the Chapel, too, probably because of the contrast it provided with the Jeffersonian buildings (which, I hasten to add, I also loved). As I made my way to the Alderman Library about seven each evening, I was occasionally arrested and riveted to the sidewalk by the tolling of the bell for yet another departed member of the Seven Society. It resonates in my memory as I write this, 50 years later.
Norma Smith Taliaferro (MA English ’59)
My favorite place on Grounds was also the music library down in the belly of Old Cabell Hall — I loved the rawness of the arched space and the isolation of the thing.
And that leads me to my point about the South Lawn Project. I was deeply saddened to learn that Jim Polshek felt he needed to walk away from the proceedings; I think he is one of the brightest lights working in the field of architecture today. And I don't know the first thing about Moore Ruble Yudell, but have seen the preliminary renderings published last year. So I'll say this, although I'm sure much of it is already very well understood:
This project is a colossal and unprecedented opportunity to not only expand the spatial and operational capacity of U.Va., but to make a statement about different architectures — born of different times and operating under differing theories but fundamentally committed to the idea that a built environment can — and how they can work together to improve both the aesthetic and the community that aesthetic serves.
People — sometimes those who like to call themselves preservationists or who espouse a preservation ethos — throw around the term “appropriate” when describing how a new addition on Grounds should relate to Thomas Jefferson’s original plan. Frequently in the preservation world, however, people mistake appropriateness for the lowest common denominator of design — for that set of materials, symmetry, solids and voids, and massing that draws on existing built fabric in the most apish of ways to yield a product of such extraordinary mediocrity, blandness and banality as to not only squander the aesthetic opportunity furnished by the project, but also to dilute the brilliance of the original work that it so self-consciously sought to respect. That, friends, is not appropriateness — that laughs in the face of appropriateness. That act is a desecration of appropriateness. Appropriateness — and this is why Jim Polshek was such a wonderful choice to begin with — especially when dealing with a vision of the magnitude and significance of Jefferson’s — is taking a chance at making an honest, beautiful, bold thing that honors the spirit of the old thing. The new thing should be a witness (in the theological sense) to the vision that helped make U.Va. great.
No piece of slavish architectural copywork could ever honor Jefferson's ideals. No matter how political and delicate the situation surrounding this new campaign is — and I can scarcely imagine a situation more richly imbued with politics and delicacy — the only way to proceed in the true spirit of Jefferson is to produce a work of unassailable integrity.
Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts.
Pepper Watkins (Spanish ’04, MS Historic Preservation & MS Urban Planning, Columbia University ’08)
The Lawn on a crisp fall night, the Rotunda glowing in the soft light, with the pungent smell of wood smoke creating a palpable sense of history, a special place that you didn’t imagine still existed.
Colleen Fitzpatrick (English ’77)
My favorite spot on the lawn is the tree between the Rotunda and Brooks Hall. Its branches lie along the ground, and in the spring and summer its broad leaves cast a green glow around you, sheltering you from the Virginia sun and humidity. I have lain under that tree, sat on the bench there, and even climbed to see if, even as I grew older, I remembered what it was like to see the world through the eyes of a child. My favorite memories span several years now. My very first night there, when everything seemed so new and so exciting, I wondered if I would ever find my way. One fall night during my fourth year I suddenly saw the lawn as I had on that very first night, yet feeling as if I had been there forever. And now, every time I return I try to shift my focus just a little, to be 18 again with my future laid out ahead of me, but to be as I am now, wiser, and no worse for the wear.
Sara Walker (Anthropology ’01)
My favorite place(s):
No longer there, the Dome Room of the Stanford White Rotunda; just me and Mr. Jefferson, no docents or locked doors, ever. Next, the “lewd room” in Clark Hall and tourists’ reactions. Next, and nevermore, Mad Bowl filled with revelers and mud. I make it a point to eat at the Virginian whenever I visit. I still covet the painting on the window over the doorway at Poe’s. The now-flooded Greek stadium in the Dell. For writing, the massive library tables in Clark. For reading, the “living room” in Newcomb at the north end of the ballroom. For enlightenment, the Alderman stacks (avoid any subject you have already studied, and find something new). The pinnacle from Merton College.
Sam Gregory (Pure Math, Religious Studies ’76, PhD Computer Science ’87)
One of my favorite places on Grounds is the statue of Thomas Jefferson on the far end of the Lawn from the Rotunda. Not only is it peaceful, but it is nice that there are still a few places where Jefferson is still emphasized at his own University. Especially since his signature and the Rotunda were taken off of the basketball court at U-Hall (which I think should make a comeback to JPJ) I have felt the University has almost turned its back on its very own founder. We need to stop turning away from TJ.
Andrew Douglas Cruickshanks (College ’10)
My favorite place on Grounds is the North Portico of the Rotunda. I proposed to my wife there. Because she is a Hokie, I needed to be sure of her commitment. Though not as enamored of the setting as I, she accepted.
Donald C. Schultz (History ’86)
My favorite place on Grounds is the courtyard to the right of the Rotunda with the fountain and benches. My husband proposed to me there on graduation night, 2004.
Lindsey (Keppel) Hayes (English ’04)
As a student, I would have said the Lawn, for its mix of beauty, history, and its symbolic representation of the ideals of the University community. But these days nothing beats a night out at the John Paul Jones Arena with my daughters, watching Debbie Ryan and her team play basketball. Those memories will be equally enduring.
Adam Slate (Physics, Math ’86, MAPA Public Administration ’94)
I love Old Cabell Hall. My first experience with it came in Young Writer’s Workshop summer camp while I was in high school. Our final readings were presented on stage in Old Cabell, and long before I minored in art history I understood the power of the copy of Raphael's School of Athens to inspire eloquence! That feeling may well have influenced my decision to attend U.Va., and I had four terrific years performing with the University Wind Ensemble beneath that same image.
Holly S. Hurlburt (History, Art History ’93)
It’s easy for me. I was an E-Science major so I always enjoyed Clark Hall. The mural room always intrigued me and caused me to ponder the ideals of higher learning and justice. The library was the setting for many hours of research and study. And of course many fond memories of the classes, professors and friends all revolved around Clark.
Kelvin M. Anderson (Environmental Sciences ’80)
I have two favorite spots on Grounds. My first is the old dorms quad. I love waking up each morning and pulling up my shade to see the sun shining through my window, or the way I peek outside on Friday afternoons and the quad is filled with shirtless boys throwing around a football, and girls tanning in the sun. I love the way the buildings form a little village around the quad, and having this center place to just sit outside on the telephone, throw around a Frisbee, or listen to the Hullabahoos at a dorm sing. It’s the place where everyone danced outside when the first snowflakes fell this winter, or huddled by a fire to make s’mores one night during finals. It’s the thing I will miss most about not living in dorms next year.
My second favorite spot is the area in front of the Rotunda, by Brooks Hall, and the Chapel on the way to the Corner. I love that pathway that connects one side of Grounds to the Corner. I love the stones used in the Chapel and Brooks Hall, and of course, I am obsessed with the Rotunda. The trees that hover over make me smile regardless of how my day is going, and walking through that area is always my favorite place to stroll on Grounds.
Rebecca Conners (College ’10)
The steps outside Gilmer Hall
O-Hill and the lawn behind Dobie and Balz dorms
The grass lawn opposite the Corner
The steps of the Rotunda that face the Corner instead of the Lawn on a warm summer’s night with the stars out.
Rebecca Lobo (Chemistry ’05)
I loved being able to steal away into one of the gardens behind the Lawn and sit completely alone on a sunny day. In the middle of a huge university, it always surprised me that I could find this personal space. I also appreciated the chance to ponder the history of the University and of our country, since so much seemed unchanged in those gardens. I hope the sanctity of the gardens is carefully preserved in any new architectural plan. And I hope no one ever locks those gates!
Susan J. (Smith) Kipp (Echols ’94)
Besides everybody's favorite, the Lawn, I’m a big fan of lounging in the Amphitheatre in between classes and on the sofas on the third floor of Newcomb, where there are big windows, and sometimes you can hear someone playing the piano from the lounge.
Kathryn Craft Wellons (College ’10)
My favorite place on Grounds would have to be the Chapel. To be honest, I’ve never even stepped foot inside of if, but it was the site of my grandparents’ wedding. Just about every member of Humphreys Third Right from ’99-’00 is aware of this fact because every time we would traipse by the Chapel after a late night on Rugby Road, I would look at it, sigh romantically and say “That's where my grandparents were married.”
Elizabeth Lockard (English ’03)
There is absolutely no question about this one, Dean Ayers: the garden behind Pav. VI. I studied and thought there for HOURS and even befriended a squirrel that I named Chamberlain. He would hop up on my leg and eat peanuts from my hand.
Jeff Ward (Economics ’81)
Reading the responses to people’s favorite places around Grounds brought a tear to my eye. Come to think about it, walking around Grounds, I never took a direct route.
Shawn Roe (Psychology ’05)
First and foremost, the Lawn and Pavilion Gardens … the original Grounds. The small enclosed area on the east side of the Rotunda with the shallow square pool and fountain, where my dog would race ahead to so she could “swim” and splash until I caught up. The garden behind Pavilion II, where an old dear friend from my days at U.Va. has a memorial tree planted in his honor. I go there now to visit him. But there are more spots. Old Cabell Hall Auditorium: the human scale, the feel, the look, the memories of concerts heard then and now. Old Cabell Hall lobby: the wonderful mural which I never tire of looking at. The small patch of woods in front of my first-year dorm, Watson, where I could look out and see mountain laurel and shade trees and imagine I was in the mountains. The small private step-walled “courtyard” between Fayerweather Hall and (then) Bayly Museum where I would tie up my dog when I was in art classes. The steep hill leading down to Emmett Street just south of Newcomb Hall which we sledded down atop cafeteria trays on the snow. ... The list can go on and on.
Belinda Cyckevic Gordon (Studio Art ’75)
Reading all of the responses makes me long for the Grounds. I’d have to agree the wide window sills in New Cabell were a great place to study and read between classes. I appreciated the access to sun and natural light in the winter when I couldn’t sit outside. I also particularly liked studying in the Amphitheater in the spring. And, having spent three years at Monroe Hill/Brown College, I’d have to say the garden behind the Hill House, the reading room, the Hill House Lawn and the lawn surrounding the portals were pretty special too.
Amanda (Baker) Upson (Government ’95)
I echo Gil Pearman’s (’88) thoughts about a space that hasn’t been subject to overdevelopment, and I also enjoy studying on the couches in Newcomb across from the Ballroom, in the West Range Cafe before it gets busy, or the philosophy library — usually somewhere that’s well lit, not too fancy, comfortable, and doesn’t have too much foot traffic ... anywhere that feels like a hole in the wall that you found just for you.
Like many, I’m also upset about the tearing down of New Cabell, and I hope the new establishment will have something similar to the windowsills where people can sit and study between classes.
On another note, this month’s issue focus on George Washington reminds me of the lack of observed holidays at this university for Thomas Jefferson. Although the daily praise and references by some can be overwhelming, I’m surprised that we don’t acknowledge and celebrate Jefferson’s birthday, for example, by not having classes on that day.
Jessica Jeanty (Foreign Affairs ’08)
The path in between the gardens and the Range, especially in the springtime with blossoming cherry trees. I enjoy walking through there and looking at all of the gardens as I pass by on my way to class.
The crossing from New Cabell Hall to Wilson Hall. It is great to sit on the benches there on a sunny day and see the mountains in the distance.
Margaret Joanne Cooper (College ’09)
One of my lasting memories:
Sitting on the South Lawn as a first-year on a gorgeous September day, alternately gazing at the Rotunda and reading Plato for Dante Germino’s Political Theory class. I remember thinking: “THIS is what college is all about.”
Randi Siegel (Interdisciplinary ’82)
I'll add my two cents’ worth to this discussion by praising a space that no longer exists, at least not in the way it did. I speak of the blissful months when Newcomb Hall was getting reconstructed and when the Dining Services had to move their servery across the hall on the third floor into what was then called the Cavalier Room. From there faculty and students (what a concept) could take their trays out into the sunken piazza that was called “the Open Square.” Instantly the combination of faculty, food and sunny, open air made a divine location for social interaction of all kinds (at least in good weather). People read their newspapers there, conversed over a long cup of coffee and met up with friends or students; faculty members from different departments even got together in a way that does not regularly happen anywhere else owing to the awkward fact that we do not have a really functioning faculty club (that’s another topic). The people remodeling Newcomb Hall noticed the magic, and when Dining Services moved back to their big space on the west side of Newcomb, they renamed one of the areas over there the “Open Square,” but the charm was lost. Faculty could no longer eat with the contract dining students; the outdoor sunken piazza lost its function; and ever since then that space has exuded a derelict feeling of neglect and purposelessness.
What this means is that architects and planners need to spend more time looking around at what is really working and figuring out why. The Alderman Cafe is a raging success. Why is it so hard to duplicate? The piazza outside the entrance to Clemons is a huge opportunity for something equally vibrant, but not with just a few benches and umbrella tables. There needs to be something more inviting, something cozier, perhaps something with potted bushes, small trees, and a coffee kiosk. Who knows? I'm no planner, but I can see when something is working. It’s always sad when a functioning space is abandoned in the name of progress. I hope that the designers of the South Lawn can learn from our experiences, both good and not so good.
Erik Midelfort (Julian Bishko Professor of History)
The Dome Room of the Rotunda and being able to study there.
The Harrison Small Collections Library — especially the little room one the top floor with an arched window that overlooks the pathway and lawn below. The space is intimate, chairs are comfortable, and the design is traditional.
Let's keep U.Va. traditional and true to its Jeffersonian design, while of course including the modern advantages.
Thanks for listening,
Megan Roberts (Biology, Psychology ’09)
One of my many favorite places on Grounds was the Lawn-side steps of the Rotunda. I am sure I am just one of many students to write about their significance, but allow me to add my contribution.
The Rotunda, in all its marbled symbolism, is a postcard-worthy picture of the starting point of Thomas Jefferson’s educational vision. It was (and still is) a place to teach and live, a place to be in awe of, yet still utilitarian, and a place to sit to overlook the campus. But the Rotunda, for me as a student, was never a place that I actually ever went into often! Of course, there were the tours and the occasional special event, but not many average students spent much time IN it. We hung out AROUND it. More specifically, we sat on its steps. I understand that the purpose of great architecture is not to provide a loitering ground for passersby, but a great collegiate institution can mark its success in where its students choose to “hang.” It’s an unspoken student statement of, “I like this place and I chose to be here even when I’m not required.” This particular university has done well; its students lovingly linger on the great marbled steps of a building that represents higher education, vision and teacher/student unity. On these steps we watch concerts, sing songs, gaze at Christmas lights, sun bathe, watch children play and of course stage our plans for great acts of mischief! I love the steps of the Rotunda and what they represent for me, but what I will appreciate the most is that I am one of many who love these steps and will always find a kindred spirit on them.
Maureen Bell (Religious Studies ’05)
It is hard to pick one favorite spot on Grounds. There was one place that I loved in Old Cabell Hall, and I can’t remember the name (something like the Cave?). It was a cave-like spot to grab a cup of coffee or a quick bite to eat. It was run down but comfortable, a place to sit between classes and read or meet friends. It did not have the feel of a cafeteria or other meal hall — it felt more like an “off the beaten path” spot that not every knew about and generally did not get overcrowded.
Marisa Marinelli (Spanish ’84)
While I was a student, my favorite place on Grounds was the blue piano room in Newcomb Hall. It was always a quiet and peaceful place to relax in the middle of Grounds, without having to go all the way back to your dorm. Someone was usually playing the piano, and the light blue walls and diffused light coming through the windows had a soothing effect. Unfortunately, when the University renovated Newcomb in the late 1990s, the room was eliminated. My other favorite place is the Chapel, where I married my husband, Will Eckerson (McIntire ’97).
Bridgette Rauch Eckerson (Foreign Affairs ’97)
My favorite place has always been walking along the Lawn under the covered walkways in front of the Lawn rooms and Pavilions. It is the combination of the worn bricks underfoot while viewing the green grass through the repetition of white columns flashing by. It is the total package!
Karen (Linehan) Harris (Art History ’86)
I enjoyed the concept of the Lawn throughout my years at U.Va. You can see in it the unity of Jefferson’s vision as it has been developed over 200 years. Building architecture used to teach students architecture so he could later build. An academic village which integrates students with faculty residences, integrates classrooms with meeting rooms and offices teaching students how he might live in their communities. The breadth of western civilization, its science, its art, displayed with each facet portrayed discretely on a human scale so that the students could confidently grapple with the tasks of his age. The interplay of spaces with flower gardens and kitchen gardens with quaint archaic bathrooms and the elegance of fireplaces in the individual rooms to nurture a sense of the aesthetic versus the practical. A student is taught by every nuance of the Lawn. In the South Lawn Project — is there even a glimmer of this use of the environment and buildings to teach?
William Zink, M.D. (College ’73)
Former resident room 7
A&S Online, March 28, 2007