University of Virginia

Winner of a 2019 AIA Institute Honor Award

Charlottesville, VA

Client: University of Virginia

Project Type: Renovation and Restoration, Historic Structure Reports; ADA study

JGWA was the architect for the comprehensive interior and exterior renovation and restoration of Thomas Jefferson’s Rotunda, the iconic centerpiece of the University of Virginia’s Academical Village.

Deteriorating building conditions forced the university to develop a plan for long-deferred repairs to the Rotunda. A historic structure report (HSR), along with measured drawings, was prepared between 2006 and 2008 to study the building and to better understand the design, history and technology of the original construction and changes over time. Those changes included the original construction in 1823-1828 through the erection of the annex in 1854, the great fire of 1895, and two subsequent restoration campaigns. The report outlined existing conditions and made recommendations for the Rotunda’s renovation and restoration, serving as a master plan for the restoration.

This report led to the preparation of detailed construction documents for the $50 million project. Exterior restoration began in 2012 and later that year construction work commenced on the terrace covering the wings and the south portico stairway. Major disassembly allowed structural repairs and the installation of a new waterproofing system. The restoration project updated all building systems; created a new underground mechanical vault, enhanced service facilities; and improved access and circulation.

A series of programming recommendations were developed to bring the building back into the mainstream of university life, and a pilot program was devised by the university to re-introduce teaching and study space in the building. During the pilot program evaluation, in the year before the building closed for renovation, 108,000 people entered the Rotunda. 170,500 people have entered the building in the first nine months since the building reopened in September, 2016; and sixty-nine classes have been taught in three dedicated classrooms.

JGWA was uniquely qualified to undertake the project given their three decades of experience working on significant historic buildings at the University. That experience began with the preparation of an HSR for Pavilion I in 1988 and followed by reports for five more of the Pavilions; Varsity Hall (1857-58), one of the earliest surviving college infirmaries in the United States; and the McKim, Mead, and White-designed classroom buildings, Cocke and Rouss Halls.

Recently JGWA completed an HSR for Jefferson’s Pavilion IX, used to guide the restoration of the building.

JGWA also completed an extensive ADA study suggesting ways of providing a barrier free environment for the entire Academical Village while retaining the historic integrity of the buildings and site.

In addition, JGWA completed the roof restoration of buildings in the West and East Ranges, as well as an HSR and roof restoration for Hotel D on the East Range.

The firm continues to work at the University, and is restoring Pavilion VIII on the Grounds following the completion of a comprehensive HSR and in the coming months will begin the multi-million dollar restoration of Carr’s Hill, the University President’s residence which will also include a new events pavilion.