When Thomas Jefferson designed the University of Virginia, he envisioned a place of shared learning and living. His arrangement of faculty pavilions and student rooms created a scholarly community, designed to allow students and faculty to live and work side by side, with the library (the Rotunda) at the head of this Academical Village.
Jefferson’s design also embodied his desire to create a national language for American architecture, blending the enduring beauty of classical antiquity and the spirit of a young democracy. The buildings serve as lessons in the integration of history and variety within the Palladian style of architecture that Jefferson admired.
To ensure that the historic Grounds remain true to Jefferson’s vision of a scholarly community, the University is investing in the preservation of many historic buildings. The University completed the first phase of the Rotunda renovation project in 2013, replacing its leaking roof and oculus, among other repairs. This effort is part of the larger Jeffersonian Grounds Initiative, which includes renovating the pavilions and hotels, repairing the Colonnades, and conserving the gardens.
Designated a National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage site along with Monticello, the Jeffersonian Grounds serve to engage, connect, and inspire students and faculty. This year, the University instituted extended study hours in the Rotunda, scheduled more classes there, and resumed the recent custom of first-year dinners in the Dome Room.
At the same time, some of the newest buildings on Grounds offer the latest forms of instruction for today’s students. Rice Hall, the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s information technology building, is a public showcase for efficient operating systems where students, faculty, and visitors alike can monitor the building’s energy consumption. The building is equipped with 17,000 sensors that monitor its energy use, and six pairs of offices and laboratories have been outfitted with different heating and cooling technologies. The result is what the school calls a Living Laboratory. “Students will be able to look at energy consumption in these spaces and experiment with different control strategies that could later be adapted for other settings,” says Ronald Williams, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.
New spaces like the Rice Hall Living Laboratory offer an important way to optimize the latest energy technologies for large educational facilities while engaging students and faculty in the learning process.