UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA                                                                                                          GROUNDS PLAN                                                                                                          OFFICE OF THE ARCHITECT







THE physical arrangement of buildings and their related green spaces along with their cultural history, creates “the sense of place” in our human environs.  Nowhere is this more demonstrable than on college and university campuses, which are generally framed around a central iconic space, often the original site development. This space at the University of Virginia is the World Heritage site of the Academical Village, designed and built by Thomas Jefferson and his team of builders and craftsmen, often referred to as the model for American university campuses. The spatial order of the Academical Village is based on the interrelated design of site; buildings and landscape, characterized by a thoughtful, balanced, and continuous sequence of structures and outdoor rooms. Moving from the Lawn, beneath the Colonnades, and into the gardens beyond, one experiences a rich spectrum from public to semiprivate spaces. The success of this assembly of building, landscape and movement is found elsewhere on Grounds; however, there are also many places where the scale and continuity of space is less thoughtfully conceived.  Responding to changing demands of growth and transportation, UVa development since Jefferson’s time has shifted to common urban and suburban patterns/practices, unable to hold to the intimate relationship of the original campus. As a result, it is difficult today to experience the overall cohesiveness and clarity-of-place so evident in the early campus.

In the belief that certain proven qualities of Jefferson’s Academical Village can be transferable to other parts of the Grounds, the following approach is prescribed in the 2008 Grounds Plan:

  • The Academical Village was designed as a formal complex inserted into a native and agrarian woodland environment featuring rolling terrain, upland forests and flowing streams. The drama of this powerful contrast between built geometry and the softness of natural form heightened the awareness of both. It is this point/counter-point drama that produced the special kind of distinctiveness inherent in the Jefferson plan.
  • Current planning and design practices can recapture these juxtapositions at both the level of the individual project and the level of systems, natural and man-made, without emulating the specific physical forms of their historical counterparts.

In implementing these steps, the University’s avowed commitment to sustainability and its related principles will enable us to reestablish a coherent spatial order on Grounds. The environmental aspects of sustainable planning practices will be evident in the management of open space, the continuation of stream rehabilitation, the conservation of wooded lands, and the care of the landscape. The economics of sustainability will be witnessed in increasing use of cost/benefit analysis in making both capital and operating decisions, the judicious use of existing utility infrastructure, and the prevention of further unnecessary expansion in land use practices.  Equity will be witnessed by site and facility accessibility,
continuation of free public transit and the promotion of community use of shared facilities. Through these practices embedded in, and encouraged by, the 2008 Grounds Plan, the University of Virginia will be able to sustain its originally intended mission of educating the future empowered citizens of the Commonwealth and the world.


David J. Neuman, FAIA
Architect for the University

Julia Monteith, AICP
Senior Land Use and Community Planner

Andrew Greene
GIS Planner

March 2008