Sunday, November 7, 2010

The University (of Virginia)

It is not visible in the dark, but behind the pediment is the Rotunda.from the portico of the Rotunda, across the Lawn flanked by the Ranges. Looking back across the lawn toward the Rotunda. The contrast of light and darkness manifest Jefferson's classical spaces in their essential relationships of solid and void, proportion.
Student rooms occupy the Ranges that extend from the Rotunda to enclose the Lawn. A rocking chair and a stack of firewood seemed to be standard issue at each door.Here, at the School of Architecture - Campbell Hall, I felt like I time-travelled back ten years to Cowgill Hall where I worked in studio for five years at Virginia Tech. Both Campbell and Cowgill are tucked away behind the venerable halls which define the dominant architecture of the campus (or, "the Grounds") - Jeffersonian neo-Classical at U.Va and Gothic rendered in limestone at VT. Both are modern, with egg carton concrete, a full glass wall on the second (administrative) floor and glass bays on the upper (studio) floors. The "feel" inside was similar, with almost every wall surface covered with student work, students and faculty engaged and excited about architecture. There were models and travel sketchbooks, both rendered by hand - I appreciated seeing these, in particular. The new wing at the School of Architecture by W.G. Clark, who gave a tour and explained that: Design decisions were made to accomodate student pin-ups with large doors, easy to open with a shoulder while one's hands are full with drawings and models, concrete walls on the south to block the light from the President's back yard at night and glass walls on the north to admit light into the pin-up spaces during the day and spill the interior light onto the plaza at night so the buildings speaks its use to passersby. Clark said the President, passing by one evening, appreciated seeing the building in use, students working. A patchwork of transparent and translucent glass in the stairwell casts moving bodies through the space as unwitting actors on a stage, at night.

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