UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA                                                                                                          GROUNDS PLAN                                                                                                          OFFICE OF THE ARCHITECT































































The University is committed to promoting teaching, learning, research and artistic expression in a community that values talent and creativity of mind.  To compete in a globally interconnected society, the boundaries between classrooms, libraries, laboratories, studios, and the world beyond should support multi-disciplinary collaboration amongst faculty members, graduate students, undergraduates and staff.  To accommodate these institutional goals within the physical environs of the Grounds, a planning program model was developed to address needed growth in terms of  population, academics, research, housing, athletics/recreation, and green space at the University.

University Growth
Most major American universities have experienced significant growth over the past five decades.  In 1950, just under 8 percent of the population had attended one year of college or more, while nearly 45 percent of adults achieved the same level of educational attainment in 2000.  This growth is primarily due to the increasing demand for college, graduate or higher-level degrees in today’s society.  In part, this growth is also attributable to certain trends in higher education, including the enrollment of women, minorities, and part-time and returning students.  The physical growth of university campuses is also a result of changing needs, technological advances, and the expansion of multi-disciplinary academics and research.  As these trends bear physical consequences for the University, it is important to develop a program or framework to gauge what needs the projected population will have.  For the Grounds Plan, the program starts with projections for the growth of the faculty and student populations and then extrapolates those figures to determine the necessary and appropriate allocation of future square footage within the University.  This includes space for teaching, research, offices, student services, libraries and classrooms.  Auxiliary space needs, such as housing, business operations, athletics and parking are calculated subsequently as part of the programming model. An important aspect of this programming model developed for UVA is that it is interactive, and can be updated at any time to test or reflect adjustments necessary for any academic institution in its planning process.

The criteria for the program model are rooted firmly within the University’s academic mission.  The 2007 President’s Commission on the Future of the University (COFU), accommodated in this Plan, provides a vision for the institution that leverages and builds upon a base of the University’s strengths and values.  Thomas Jefferson intended for the University of Virginia to be global in scope and character.  Today that objective is accomplished through a powerful and rewarding undergraduate experience that affords direct connections with superior graduate and professional schools.  The experience extends to all members of the University community through meaningful interaction amongst members who strive together towards the collaborative pursuit of knowledge.  Because of their broad and inter-disciplinary education, these global citizens are poised to become effective, ethical, and globally literate leaders in an increasingly interconnected world.  As outlined in the Virginia 2020 report from 2004, a host of new building projects are underway at the University (see Section 4 timeline).  These projects, like the framework outlined in COFU, manifest the University’s academic mission.  That mission, to extend the legacy of Jefferson’s academic principles into the contemporary realm, is also made physical through the principles of this Plan, which seek to foster multi-disciplinary academic connectedness within the University, region, and world through a carefully planned and implemented physical environment.

The program model includes projects in the 2008 to 2014 Capital Plan, which represent known future development, and are categorized as academic/research/library facilities, administration and support facilities, housing, athletics and recreation, historic preservation, and infrastructure.  The program model is based on four planning horizons: 1995, 2005, 2015, and 2025--two past horizons to provide context for the planning, and two future horizons. Two growth scenarios are explored across the planning horizons, defined as Steady State and Research Centric. Steady State represents a relatively modest rate of student population growth-- the direction UVA has committed to with the State of Virginia--and maintains the current undergraduate to graduate student ratio of 2.75 to 1. The Research Centric scenario addresses an increase in graduate enrollment, reflecting an adjusted undergraduate to graduate student ratio of nearly 1 to 2, in the case that UVA should be directed to develop more robust research programs. As stated previously, one of the great benefits of this program model is that it can be updated on a yearly basis to support flexibility in future University planning as adjustments are required.

The faculty and student population projections, and the related facility needs, establish the “demand” side of an equation that must be balanced by the “supply” of redevelop-able land on Grounds.  This supply is determined by deducting built and green space on Grounds, combined with examining opportunities and constraints associated with the development to yield a “carrying capacity” (see Redevelopment Zones in Introduction). Opportunities refer to the elements that make a site more appropriate for development, including existing utility service and capacity, location along existing travel routes, and adjacent land uses that relate to the proposed development’s uses.  Constraints are those conditions that make a site less appropriate for development, including high-value natural systems or steep topography, historic or cultural resources, a lack of utility services or capacity, or a location not served by existing travel routes.  Rigorous program and physical capacity analysis show that the current developed Grounds area accommodates both growth scenarios, projected through 2025.  This conclusion is based on a strategy of infill and redevelopment for future University buildings, balancing increased density within certain Grounds precincts and the preservation of natural and green spaces within others.

FAR Comparison of Selected Universities

By the year 2005, the University comprised academic and related facilities totaling just over 13 million gross square feet (GSF). To understand the relative meaning of this GSF, it is useful to reference comparable peer institutions. Figure 1 depicts the comparable size in GSF of 28 major American universities, indicating that the University of Virginia is a medium-sized institution.  In addition to total size, a second important dimension of building development is density, which creates the perception of urban, suburban or rural character.  The conventional planning measure of development density is Floor Area Ratio (FAR), which is calculated by dividing GSF by land area.  Figure 2 shows the FAR for the same set of 28 institutions.  In 2003, the University of Virginia’s 13 million GSF occupied approximately 1,100 acres of Grounds, generating an FAR of 0.27.  The University’s overall density is in the lower third of the sample peer group, reflecting the area’s rural heritage and the University’s pattern of clustering development to preserve green space and adjacent natural areas. The University can continue to follow a strategy of infill development for the foreseeable future without jeopardizing the character and qualities of the Grounds.  With careful planning and adherence to design guidelines provided in this and related planning documents, infill development can actually help create a more cohesive sequence of buildings and green spaces throughout the Grounds, in keeping with the University’s historic character


The University Grounds are comprised of three planning precincts, the Central, West and North Grounds. The boundaries of these precincts are established by geographic features on Grounds rather than academic or use distinction.  This Plan seeks to establish a logical course for future development within these precincts, with an emphasis on configuring redevelopment to better serve users, provide increased capacity, and improve connectivity within the Grounds.  Critical to this process is a detailed understanding of the academic and physical needs present within these precincts.  To that end, the Office of the Architect for the University conducted a series of collaborative workshops between 2004 and 2006, convening members of the academic, administrative and operational uses associated with the Central, West and North Grounds.  The seven workshops served as a forum to establish the needs of each user group, and to develop conceptual plans aimed at meeting those needs (see appendix for workshop reports).