Oct. 25-Nov. 7, 2002
Back Issues
Garry Wills takes his turn at writing U.Va. history
Headlines @ U.Va.
Lampkin named new VP

Wanted: Minority grad students

Faculty Actions -- from the October BOV meeting
New director has familiar face
The struggle to create the University -- excerpt from Mr. Jefferson’s University
Grounds Keeper
Nursing enrollment, ranking on the rise
Opportunity key to library’s outlook
‘With Good Reason’ turns 10
Talk maps out path of early explorations
Dove’s play debuts in C’ville
America’s global stature Levinson Lecture focus
Tears for the Earth
Bond package to spur research
Mary Hughes and her dog
Photo by Andrew Shurtleff

Grounds Keeper

Architect’s plan consiers both buildings and the spaces between

By Elizabeth Kiem

As an institution founded by one of the country’s most gifted and admired amateur architects, the University of Virginia has an inherent reverence for architecture.

But until the early 1990s, there was no independent office for architectural planning on Grounds.

Mary Hughes, a 1988 graduate of the School of Architecture, had been away from U.Va. for nearly a decade when she heard about the search for a University landscape architect. Curious, she made an informal phone call to the new architect for the University, Samuel A. “Pete” Anderson III.

Anderson remembers being impressed by Hughes and her “confident Midwestern voice.” Hughes, who had taken up landscape architecture as a second career in her mid-30s and was happy at her job with the Park Service in Omaha, said she still did not envision herself ensconced in the Rotunda as a faculty member.

The master plan strives to merge land use and water resource planning to achieve the most environmentally sustainable result. Such innovative landscaping strategies for water resource management have paid off during the current water crisis, says landscape architect Mary Hughes, who appears with her West Highland Terrier, Byron, aboves.

It wasn’t until she flew into the regional airport for an interview on a perfect fall day and was treated to a birds’ eye view of the “emerald green lawn and the maples in flame and the afternoon sun hitting the bricks and columns,” that she knew she would take the job if it was offered.

“You always worry about if you will be seen as an adult, mature professional coming back to a setting where you’ve been a student,” recalled Hughes recently.

In her capacity as the University landscape architect, Hughes works with Anderson to advise senior administrators on all aspects of planning. Two years after the creation of their office, they presented an updated master plan for the Grounds to the Board of Visitors. In it, Hughes included landscaping strategies for water resource management – innovations that have paid off during the current water crisis.

“It was not a master plan that looked simply at where buildings would be located and how many square feet they would be,” said Hughes. “It also looked at the spaces between buildings to see how those could be optimized and how land use and water resource planning could be merged to achieve the most environmentally sustainable result.”

Hughes said the decision to move landscape architecture duties from the dominion of Facilities Management and consolidate them within an influential and independent new structure has empowered her conservation efforts. On the other hand, it also stripped her department of a budget, making fund-raising a large part of her job description.

“Landscape niceties of new projects tend to be very quickly chopped from shrinking budgets.”

Meanwhile, the University is entering a peak phase in a “crescendo of new projects,” as Hughes calls it. The South Lawn and the new sports arena are the largest projects approved by the Board of Visitors since the construction of the Academical Village. In addition to funding concerns, these projects have generated controversy. When plans for a new parking garage sparked a public uproar, Hughes unexpectedly found herself squarely in the middle of the debate.

“I’ve learned a tremendous amount in the past year about traffic studies that I never knew and never knew that I would know,” she laughed. “And diplomacy.”



© Copyright 2002 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

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