Questions for Bob Moje

Questions for Bob Moje

Bob Moje co-founded local educational-design powerhouse VMDO Architects in 1976, the year he graduated from UVA’s School of Architecture, and has gone on to design dozens of large-scale projects (including the award-winning Manassas Park High School). As lead architect on the vast John Paul Jones project, Moje used every ounce of knowledge and experience he’s collected over the past quarter century to help make UVA’s arena dreams a reality. We asked him what it was like.

C-VILLE: How difficult was it to design a “Jeffersonian” building on such a monumental scale?
Bob Moje: Well, it was an enormous challenge. I mean, a project of that size is certainly going to be noticed. And we knew right from the beginning that it was going to be a project that not everybody would like… There’s always a fine line you’re walking when working among Jefferson’s buildings. The time we’re in, and the building types we have, these were things that didn’t exist in his day. Our goal was to get the best of all worlds.

What most influenced your design process?
Well, the building had significant functional aspects that we had to achieve. It’s not only the Jefferson context—it’s all the buildings of that type that have been done before. It’s a building type that has been built for centuries, going back to the Roman Coliseum… These kinds of buildings have been built many times over. We attempted to learn from those and do something that was a positive step in the evolution of buildings constructed by the University.

As a longtime Charlottesville resident, do you ever worry about excessive growth?
That’s always a big question to ask an architect. We’d like to have everything go the way we’d like; that’s what we do, is envision how it could be. I think Charlottesville is a wonderful place to live, and has a lot going for it. The debate tends to be growing or not growing—and I don’t think there’s any choice but that it grow. Therefore the question is how it can grow to be the best it can be as it gets larger. And I think the JPJ is an example of that. Too often, I think, we’ve settled for second or third best as we’ve done things, and I think, as long we continue to strive to create buildings that represent the best of what we can do, Charlottesville will remain a wonderful place to live.