Earlier this month the Board of Visitors approved plans for the $105 million South Lawn project, one the most ambitious building projects in UVA’s recent history.
UVA Architect David Neuman touts the project as an extension of “the Lawn,” the grass expanse framed by Jefferson’s Rotunda and Academical Village. The South Lawn project will create a new, smaller lawn extending from New Cabell Hall across Jefferson Park Avenue on a terrace the size of a football field. What is now a parking lot will be the site of a huge fountain flanked by a glass-walled commons area and a new building that will add 100,000 square feet to the College of Arts and Sciences. UVA plans to tear down New Cabell Hall eventually.
The South Lawn design has been a source of controversy. Last fall, many UVA architecture faculty and other critics signed an open letter to the Board of Visitors criticizing its tastes in “mediocre” traditional architecture and urging more modern designs.
Neuman touts the South Lawn as “right down the middle” of the debate. He notes that the classroom building is broken into sections that make it seem less monolithic, and employs such non-Jeffersonian elements as glass walls and cast concrete. Neuman predicts construction could begin in summer 2007. Meanwhile, some architecture faculty who signed the open letter say they would like to see a symposium on the South Lawn this fall, so people can take a good look at the design and register their comments. “I don’t see any reason that couldn’t happen,” Neuman says.
Also at the board’s meeting on April 6, the Building and Grounds Committee tentatively approved Neuman’s plans for a new $14 million dormitory on Observatory Hill—but not without first discussing what type of windows Mr. Jefferson might prefer if he were alive today.