South Lawn Classrooms Open for Business This Month

January 05, 2010

January 5, 2010 — Parts of the University of Virginia's South Lawn project will open for classes this month.

The entire South Lawn project is scheduled to be completed in December 2010, but contractors have been able to move ahead quickly with the construction. Faculty and staff are moving in during winter break. The Corcoran Department of History will move into the north building, Nau Hall; the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics and the Department of Religious Studies will be housed in the south building, Gibson Hall. Classes will be held in both buildings.

The South Lawn project extends Central Grounds across Jefferson Park Avenue. When completed, it will connect to the Grounds via a 100-foot-wide terrace that spans Jefferson Park Avenue. The terrace will end in a circular plaza that sits atop a commons building, with an exterior stair leading down to gardens.

The commons building will contain lounge spaces and a cafe with three-story glass walls. The glass walls are framed by two west-facing porches that serve as entrances to the perpendicular wings of the building. The commons building and terrace crossing should be finished during the summer.

Attached to the commons are Nau and Gibson halls, running east and west, which house classrooms, student lounges, computer labs, administrative offices, conference rooms and faculty/student meeting rooms. The buildings' southern exposure will let in more light during cold months, while awnings and overhangs will shade the windows when the sun is high in the sky, according to University architect David Neuman.

He said the South Lawn was carefully aligned with the Rotunda and sited to provide the view Thomas Jefferson would have had from the Rotunda before it was blocked by Old Cabell Hall. But, Neuman said, the new buildings do not compete with the Rotunda.

"The terrace, which is not final, is an extension of the Lawn," Neuman said. "It gives the University community access across the street, but it does not feel like a bridge."

Jeffrey W. Legro, chairman of the politics department, said the new facilities are student friendly and will provide good space for graduate students. He said the politics faculty, which is moving from New Cabell Hall, is looking forward to the change.

"There is space for faculty collegiality, and it provides room for students to mix with faculty as well as bring together students who share interests across disciplines," Legro said. "Everyone is excited to get into a space where the faculty members are close to one another and near classes. It will be nice to have new modern facilities for the faculty to pursue its scholarship and research."

Landscaping plans call for a garden area to reflect the pavilion gardens, Neuman said. A small stream and a pond will slow and retain storm water.

As part of the landscaping, the project preserves as a one-acre park the homestead of Catherine "Kitty" Foster, a free black woman who lived on Venable Lane near the University from 1833 to 1863. The house's footprint is marked by shadow lines, and a 32-grave cemetery next to it will be outlined with local stones.

The $105 million project is paid for through $43.8 million in University resources and $61.2 million in private philanthropy. The building architects are Moore Ruble Yudell, of Santa Monica, Calif., and Glaserworks, of Cincinnati. The landscape is designed by Cheryl Barton, of San Francisco, and Walter Hood, Oakland, Calif. U.Va. is seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – or LEED – certification, meaning the project meets certain environmental, economic and health and safety standards.

About the namesakes of Gibson and Nau halls

David E. Gibson, a 1962 alumnus of the College of Arts & Sciences and a 1965 alumnus of the School of Law, is a former executive vice president of Citicorp/Citibank. Gibson is an emeritus trustee of the Darden Foundation for the Darden School of Business, a founding sponsor and emeritus trustee of the College Foundation, and a trustee of the Miller Center Foundation for the Miller Center of Public Affairs. Gibson is retired and running a farm in Orange County.

John L. Nau received a bachelor of history degree from U.Va. in 1968. He is a former president of the College Foundation, served on the executive committee of the University's national capital campaign, was chairman of the College of Arts & Sciences campaign and served on the board of managers for the Alumni Association. He has served on many national historical panels and commissions. He operates one the nation's largest beer distributorships in Houston.

— By Matt Kelly