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Grant to help U.Va. develop historical preservation plan

By Lee Graves

Being venerable does not always mean being valuable. At an institution such as U.Va., which has some of the most venerated architecture in the United States, separating the two can be difficult. With a building boom under way, the University increasingly faces questions about the academic value of buildings that have stood for generations.

Now, thanks to a $170,000 grant from the Getty Grant Program, a historic preservation master plan will be developed to enable University officials to evaluate more than 100 sites on Grounds. Income from an endowment to the University by Hunter and Carl Smith will supplement the Getty grant.

“We’re extremely grateful to the Getty Grant Program for providing the funding for this comprehensive study,” said Mary V. Hughes, U.Va.’s landscape architect. “There was a tremendous amount of competition for this grant money.”

U.Va. President John T. Casteen III noted that the grant comes at a time when the University’s architectural landscape is undergoing dramatic changes. “How it eventually unfolds will depend as much on how we understand our past as it does on how we interpret it into a vision for the future,” he said. “The Getty grant will help us to focus on our rich architectural heritage and ways to keep it current.”

That is precisely the intent of the grant, which is part of Getty’s Campus Heritage initiative. The preservation plan will provide both an inventory and assessments of the historical significance of buildings and landscapes that are at least 40 years old. It will document and evaluate defining features and materials of the sites, and provide recommendations for their preservation and use as part of the overall master plan for the University.

“We need to have a sense of preservation goals in order to make good planning decisions in the future,” Hughes said.

The Academical Village area of the Grounds has been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, but there are numerous other prominent historic sites that have not been systematically evaluated.

The project is expected to be completed in December 2004.

While professionals will do the bulk of the work, students, including an interdisciplinary team of graduate students from the School of Architecture, already are playing a significant role.

“They will be applying what they learn in class,” Hughes said. “We’ll be fulfilling Jefferson’s dream of making the University an architectural classroom.”

Lisa Reilly, chairwoman of the Department of Architectural History at U.Va., said, “This grant will provide an unparalleled opportunity for our students to apply the knowledge they are gaining in their courses directly to an application similar to those they will encounter in their careers after completing their degrees.”

The Smiths’ gift, a matching grant of $250,000 given in 1988, reflects their longtime interest both in the University and in historic preservation.


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