Photos: The Great Emptiness of Grounds

April 6, 2020 By Sanjay Suchak, Sanjay Suchak,


If it can be said that students are the lifeblood of the University of Virginia, then the grand spaces on Grounds that they move through daily are the ventricles, the large chambers in the heart that collect and push out blood as it moves through the body.

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Each successive week that I have put together a photo essay documenting this strange time, the Grounds has gotten quieter. This week, I decided to focus on the vast emptiness of these spaces.

With the exception of those working hard at UVA Health, most students, faculty and staff are at home, doing their best to keep themselves and others safe and wait out this COVID-19 pandemic. The spaces they normally fill – from the iconic Rotunda to vast lecture halls and sports stadiums – stand empty, awaiting their return.

I doubt, in its 200-year history, the University has ever been quieter.

empty Hallway with large floor to ceiling paintings on the wall
Beyond the Clark Hall atrium, the doors to the Brown Science & Engineering Library now remain closed.
Empty lecture hall
In Nau Hall, room 101, a lecture hall that can hold 245 people, sits empty. All courses have moved online.
View of Cabell hall from the Rotunda
The Lawn, as it turns greener in spring, is as beautiful as ever, but far quieter.
empty auditorium
Old Cabell Hall auditorium, opened in 1898, normally hosts more than 200 public performances and events each year.
Empty Stadium seating
Empty seats in Davenport Field at Disharoon Park, on what would have been a great day for baseball. All springs sports at UVA have been cancelled.
Empty green tennis courts
The Snyder Tennis Courts, home to two championship programs, are now closed and locked.
empty lounge area in a building on Grounds
In Rouss-Robertson Hall, home to the McIntire School of Commerce, stairways await students’ next in-person journey to class.
Rotunda Hall empty as seen from the podium
In the Rotunda Dome Room, the podium and chairs are still in place from one last event, a doctoral dissertation defense held several weeks ago, right before everything shifted.
Empty parking garage
Emmet Street Parking Garage is normally lined with cars. University Transportation Services is operating on a modified service level, with fewer routes in service and most of those serving UVA Health. More buses are running on those routes to help passengers maintain social distancing.
Empty carpeted hallway with two stair cases one on each side
Lights are out in the lower-level entrance to the Rotunda, where tourists are typically met by student greeters.
Empty hallway with seating on the right side
In the airy South Lawn building, Starbucks is bustling no longer. These tables are normally filled with students studying or chatting between classes.
brick Building on grounds that has no people walking on its sidewalks
Outside South Lawn, trees are in full bloom.
Looking down a lecture hall to the podium but the hall is empty
The chemistry lecture hall, one of the largest on Grounds, stands silent, waiting for the next group of students to fill it whenever we can all return to the Grounds and gather again.

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Sanjay Suchak

Photographer Office of University Communications