Traditional Building Portfolio




Adding to History

Rouss Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

Hartman-Cox Architects, Washington, DC; Lee Becker, FAIA, partner

John G. Waite Associates, PLLC, Albany, NY

Gilbane Building Co., Providence, RI

By Nancy A. Ruhling

When the University of Virginia decided to expand its business school, it had to please a pair of VIPs, namely Thomas Jefferson and Stanford White. The historic Charlottesville campus, designed by Jefferson in 1819 and expanded by White in 1896-1898, is comprised of small-scale Colonial-style red-brick buildings, and the business school's plans called for a large-scale project. The original plan was to expand the school's existing building, but creating a 150,000-gross-sq.ft. space in its landlocked site proved impossible. It was only when space became available in White's 22,000-sq.ft. Rouss Hall that the $43-million project moved forward.

The interior of Rouss Hall, a classroom building, had been altered several times, so the project called not only for an addition that would more than quadruple its size but also for a complete renovation that would link the old and new spaces in a manner consistent with the Classical style of other iconic buildings at the school, the only university in America to be designated a Heritage Site by UNESCO.

"There is historical precedent for additions at the university," says architect Lee Becker of Washington, DC-based Hartman-Cox Architects and partner in charge of the project. "When the university opened, as soon as the faculty took residence, they complained that the pavilions were too small, so additions were added almost immediately."

Because the T-shaped Rouss Hall is on the south end of the Lawn – an integral component of Jefferson's "academical village" that features 10 two-story student/faculty pavilions – the doughnut-shaped, two-wing addition had to fit seamlessly into the architecture of the campus without making its own stylistic statement.

The addition was made possible when Varsity Hall, an 1858 infirmary right behind Rouss Hall, was moved. This proved a simple matter of logistics that required only the engagement of a skillful building mover, but putting the new McIntire School of Commerce in its place required careful and creative planning. "The biggest challenge was to gracefully tuck in a large building and keep the scale in sync with the surrounding buildings," says Becker. "Buildings on the Lawn are small and personal and with the Robertson Hall addition, Rouss is the largest single building on the Lawn. The surrounding buildings are all one and two stories, and while the original Rouss is actually three stories, from the Lawn it appears as one story. With the new addition, the McIntire School of Commerce is five stories."

The Hartman-Cox team broke the five-level, 125,000-sq.ft. Robertson Hall addition into a series of cascading pavilions and colonnaded loggias that step down the hill behind Rouss. "Shoehorned between three other existing halls and taking advantage of the 35-ft. fall in grade from the Lawn on the west to Ruppel Drive on the east, the addition virtually disappears from the Lawn," says Becker. "Each section is only two stories high, forming new small-scale garden plazas between the addition and the adjacent halls. The Classical elements that define the façades were adjusted in scale as they walked down the hill to keep the structure in proportion to the new space and adjacent buildings. The addition extends two stories below the lowest level of Rouss Hall with the top two floors of the addition aligning with the lower two floors of Rouss."

The site behind Rouss, around Varsity Hall and in front of the adjacent halls was a parking lot and service area. "The new garden plazas adjacent to the Lawn established a much needed sense of place and entry procession for the existing halls,"says Becker. "They fit the scale and character so naturally that it is difficult to tell that they are new." Even with these fool-the-eye techniques, Becker says that the school "had so much program that we pushed and tugged to get everything in."

The project's mechanical system is a prime example of this wise use of space. The air conditioning equipment, which moves up to 150,000-cu.-ft. of fresh air per minute through five levels, was placed in a sub-basement. "It was hard to get the system to fit, be serviceable and to provide several hundred square feet of enormous louvers on the stainless steel roof, which was supplied by Follansbee in Follansbee, West Virginia," says Becker. "But we buried the louvers under the roof monitors so they cannot be seen."

The exterior facades of the Jefferson and White buildings complement each other, and the McIntire School of Commerce relates to both styles. "Jefferson didn't use fancy materials," says Becker. "His structures are beautifully proportioned while made of simple materials – painted wood and red brick with plaster-covered brick columns and slate or tin roofs. The White buildings are more ornate, their columns and pilasters are taller, more slender and their roof slopes are shallower. Jefferson's are more robust."

Like the Jefferson and White buildings, the McIntire School of Commerce is made of sand-molded brick in the same pattern as Rouss Hall. The brick was supplied by Redland Brick Co. of Willamsport, MD. "We worked hard to match the orangey-red, dark-header brick to that of the existing Rouss building," says Becker. "We specified three possible manufacturers and had panels from two of these before we found what we needed."

Jefferson's initial plans for his two-story pavilions placed faculty quarters upstairs and classrooms downstairs in each building. To further student-faculty interaction, the pavilions were attached to two rows of student rooms and connected by an inward-facing colonnade. The McIntire building follows suit, with classrooms placed to form the base of the complex. Faculty offices, administrative offices, student services, computer labs and a state-of-the-art computer-trading center are grouped together on upper levels and are topped by the dean's suite and conference rooms. A 10,400-sq.ft. courtyard and terrace on the third and fourth levels, complete with two garden classrooms, is designed to bring faculty and students together. "The interior is designed and arranged to create community spaces where students and faculty mingle, just as Jefferson envisioned," says Becker. "The common spaces and halls flow into each other and are visually linked to the student labs and trading spaces. The corridors, public spaces and gathering spaces are filled with natural daylight. No matter where you are in the building, there is an awareness of student and faculty activity and the vibrant McIntire community." The interior design was by Linda Pye of Pye Interiors of Charlottesville, VA.

While the Lawn-level classrooms, offices and common spaces are flooded with natural light, where perimeter space was in short supply, classrooms don't have as many windows and borrow light from the corridors. "The reality is that the lights often are dimmed for videos and visuals," says Becker.

The old and the new sections of Rouss Hall are linked by a grand cascading staircase whose style reflects that of the campus' historic buildings. "It also keeps the space open and visually connected," says Becker. Given the numerous renovations over the years, the old Rouss building was gutted, and detailed woodwork and finishes, modeled on those of the Jefferson and White buildings, were added in the existing shell and consistently throughout the newly expanded space. Wood windows throughout were supplied by Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork.

While the McIntire School of Commerce did not pursue LEED certification, the building has a number of inherent sustainable features, including a design that is intended to last for generations and flexible spaces that will adapt as the program evolves. Low-VOC materials, low-water consumption fixtures, an extremely efficient mechanical system, low-energy lighting and natural daylight are all a matter of course. "LEED certification was considered when the project was nearly finished, which is too late," says Becker. "Most of the projects we do for universities are LEED-certifiable, but the documentation is expensive, so many of the schools don't do it because they prefer to spend the money on programs and sustainable features."

The most visible sustainable features of the landscape design are the green roofs that cover a portion of the building and the courtyard, whose limestone columns were supplied by Bybee Stone Co. of Ellettsville, IN. Landscape architect Thomas Woltz, principal and co-owner of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, which has offices in New York City and Charlottesville, used two types of green roofing.

Extensive green-roof technology employed shallow planting medium and sedums on the perimeter roofs to hold rainwater, decrease runoff and insulate for heating and cooling. The other type, known as intensive green roof technology, provides a landscape feature within the 10,400-sq.ft. courtyard and terrace on the fourth level of the building and has soil deep enough to plant trees and shrubs. The green roof planters on the fourth-floor terrace surround one rectangular and one elliptical outdoor garden classroom.

"The idea of the courtyard was to create a colonnade featuring 12-ft.-high limestone columns and a pergola where offices spill out into a courtyard that is designed for student-faculty interaction from indoors and outdoors," says Woltz. "We also referenced the terracing of the East Range gardens by further developing two levels of courtyards that tie the design to the historic and topographic aspects of the campus."

The outdoor classrooms, which accommodate 12 to 16 people each, have built-in limestone benches and are surrounded by plants that are native to central Virginia. "This was a collaboration between the architects, the landscape architects and the faculty of the school of commerce," says Woltz. "We tailored the exterior spaces to the curriculum needs of the faculty." Olin Partnership of Philadelphia, PA, created a general landscape that kept the Rouss Hall addition in sync with the rest of the campus.

Becker sees the McIntire School of Commerce as an academic building "in the spirit of Jefferson and White. It converted a back-of-house service and parking lot into a welcoming extension of the Lawn's student environment while creating needed entry plazas. And it's a sympathetic neighbor to the adjacent buildings." But its main influence, he says, runs far deeper than its red brick and cast stone façade. "The new school has a collegial atmosphere that is in keeping with Jefferson's original idea," says Becker. "This sense of community and interactivity are what make this project sing."



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