by Andrew Shurtleff
Architects plan consiers both buildings
and the spaces between
By Elizabeth Kiem
an institution founded by one of the countrys most gifted
and admired amateur architects, the University of Virginia has
an inherent reverence for architecture.
until the early 1990s, there was no independent office for architectural
planning on Grounds.
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.
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.
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.
wasnt 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.
always worry about if you will be seen as an adult, mature professional
coming back to a setting where youve been a student,
recalled Hughes recently.
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
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
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
niceties of new projects tend to be very quickly chopped from
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.
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.