Tuesday, January 6

The University of Virginia plan

A couple of months ago the University of Virginia's Office of the Architect released their 2008 Grounds plan (previous Master Plans were 1965, 1973, and 1990). With so much else competing for my attention, I shelved it for a while. This morning, sitting at the downtown mall with an hour or two to spare, I thought I would take a peek at the new plan.

UVA's situation is unique. The center of campus, Jefferson's "academical village," is not only a world heritage site but widely considered to be an original prototype for the classical American university campus. How can the University reclaim the Jeffersonian planning principles, philosophical as well as merely structural, while meeting the pressures faced by a contemporary education institution?

"Responding to changing demands of growth and transportation, UVa development since Jefferson’s time has shifted to common urban and suburban patterns/practices, unable to hold to the intimate relationship of the original campus. As a result, it is difficult today to experience the overall cohesiveness and clarity-of-place so evident in the early campus.

The 2008 Plan was created "in the belief that certain proven qualities of Jefferson’s Academical Village can be transferable to other parts of the Grounds

Some principles from the plan that piqued my interest:

  • A clear boundary to encourage a compact growth pattern. (specifically US29 and 250 bypass)
  • Identification of Redevelopment Zones already existing within the campus boundaries as possible infill sites
  • End of greenfield expansions entirely. The core grounds is where "all future development for UVa is planned to occur."
  • New Buildings will be broken into Academic/Mixed-use and Residential/Mixed-use, average 4-5 floors, designed to facilitate interconnection of uses.
"What planners refer to today as “mixed use” remains very close to the original Jeffersonian conception of the Academical Village. The University was modeled after a town or village - an all-inclusive settlement embodying Jeffersonian’s agrarian ideals."
  • Overall density of campus, as measured in Floor-to-area ratio (FAR), will be increased without sacrificing existing campus green space. Current FAR of the whole campus is .29, relatively low compared to other campuses in the United States.
  • Attention will be paid to four separate gateways, to establish a coherent transition into the campus.
  • Three central green spaces (including the central lawn) will be established as community centers for each precinct of the campus.
  • Even though some of the close-in parking lots are heavily used, there is no plan to augment parking facilities. All parking is appropriately priced.
  • Implementation of a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan with a number of elements to incentivize walking, biking, and transit. Actually launched in July of 2007
  • Heavy focus in integrating North Grounds into the rest of campus by increasing connectivity for pedestrians, cyclists, and bus riders.

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