Dedication of School of Architecture Additions Celebrates Collaboration, Transparency and the Creative Process

October 27, 2008

October 27, 2008 — Karen Van Lengen welcomed Saturday's autumn rain, even as it forced the dedication of the two new additions to the University of Virginia's School of Architecture indoors.

In her remarks, the dean told the high-spirited crowd of faculty, students, alumni, administrators and friends, "The rain is beautiful today. It is a quiet rain and a resource for replenishing the earth.

"That is what we are doing here with these additions. They provide a replenishment of the school that will give us a life and new life in the future."

The additions — photographs of which were projected on the front wall of the auditorium — were designed by faculty members William Sherman, associate dean for academic affairs, and W.G. Clark, Edmund Schureman Campbell Professor of Architecture and an alumnus of the school, in collaboration with SMBW Architects in Richmond. Alumnus and professor emeritus Warren Byrd created the landscape designs.

The new wings add 12,000 square feet, accommodating the school's growth since Campbell Hall was built in 1970. Each design also makes a statement about what architecture and architecture education mean.

Clark designed the Victor and Sono Elmaleh East Wing, which houses three rooms to hold review sessions of students' designs, as a transparent expression of the dialogue between student and teacher that is the hallmark of the school's education process. Through the use of both clear and thermally efficient white glass on three sides of the addition, he makes visible the process of what goes on inside.

Sherman's addition includes 26 faculty offices that promote interaction among the school's disciplines — architecture, landscape architecture, architectural history and planning — and between faculty and students. His design also includes examples of sustainable principles, a focus throughout the school's curriculum.

Byrd's designs for the gardens are also teaching tools, providing examples of materials, design principles and ways to use the landscape to achieve sustainable goals such as curbing erosion while purifying water runoff before it heads downstream.

The expansion provided educational opportunities from the first days it was considered, with faculty members leading classes for students to explore their own design options. That process continued as the school community watched and discussed the construction phase and now experience working in the completed building.

The additions, "plus eight design/build projects we are celebrating today, fit into a bigger vision and a pedagogical vision for the school," Van Lengen said.

University President John T. Casteen III said that the additions expressed Jefferson's intent in designing the Academical Village, a tool to be used in the process of learning and an architectural framework that promotes activities meant to bring people together.

"Jefferson's architecture embodies the spirit of enlightenment. These two additions certainly do that," he said.

Executive Vice President and Provost Arthur Garson Jr. praised Van Lengen and all those involved in the project. "These buildings fit appropriately a school that is great. It has a reputation as being one of the really great schools of the University," he said.

Stuart N. Siegel, president of the U.Va. School of Architecture Foundation's Board of Trustees, lauded Van Lengen as "our cheerleader and driving force," and expressed gratitude for her work on the project and as dean for the past decade. "This building is a tremendous legacy of your deanship," he said.

Perhaps a comment from a letter sent by the Elmalehs, generous supporters of the school who gave the lead gift for the Elmaleh East Wing and were not able to attend the celebration, best summed up what everyone was feeling. "It is something we will be proud of for the rest of our lives," they wrote.

Two plaques, one dedicating the Victor and Sono Elmaleh East Wing and the other a tribute to the architects, were unveiled before guests enjoyed a light lunch and took self-guided tours of the building.

— By Jane  Ford