We would be better servedWe bywould an architecture be better served that sets byaside an architecture empty stylistic that sets gestures asideand empty glibstylistic historical gestures references and in glib order historical to respond references to in order to resp 1. the qualities of an individual 1. thediscipline qualities of an individual discipline 2. the nature of a modern 2. building the nature of a modern building 3. the character of an individual 3. the character place. of an individual place. We stand for an architecture Wethat stand does for not an architecture begin and end thatwith does style. not begin and end with style.
We stand for an architecture Wethat stand engages for an architecture tradition butthat is not engages ashamed tradition of having but been is notbuilt ashamed in theoftwenty-ﬁrst having been century. built in the twenty-ﬁrst century.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE BOARD OF VISITORS, THE UNIVERSITY ADMINISTRATION, AND THE UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY September 7, 2005
WHAT ARE THE JEFFERSONIAN ARCHITECTURAL IDEALS? The University community is heir to the Lawn, one of the most important architectural complexes in the United States and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The University community is also heir to Jefferson’s progressive vision of education, created to accommodate the challenges of a new democracy and to address the unique American landscape. Why has this legacy of innovation in service of ideas been allowed to degenerate into a rigid set of stylistic prescriptions? The result has been a faux Jeffersonian architecture, confused between style and substance, characterized by apologetic neo-Jeffersonian appliqué, obsessive in its references to history, and incapable of responding to the profound social, political, and ecological discoveries of the last century.
We stand for an architecture Wethat stand answers for an architecture to technology that without answers monumentalizing to technology without or suppressing monumentalizing it. or suppressing it.
We stand for an architecture We stand that evokes for an the architecture qualities that of traditional evokes the architecture, qualities ofconstruction, traditional architecture, and craft without construction, recourseand to craft symbolic, without recourse to sy synthetic veneers lacking synthetic any virtueveneers beyondlacking familiarity. any virtue beyond familiarity.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE? WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
The undersigned School of Architecture The undersigned faculty believe School of there Architecture is a fundamental faculty believe schismthere between is a fundamental architecture as schism it is taught, between practiced architecture and studied as it is as taught, a discipline practiced at our and studied as a discipli
Is the University committed to architectural excellence?
School and architecture as it isSchool prescribed, and architecture controlled and as itmarketed is prescribed, as a controlled style by theand Board marketed of Visitors as a and styleadministration. by the Board of Visitors and administration.
Is architecture simply a question of style, of applied motifs with historical associations, or is it an exploration of the essence of a building, the needs of its occupants, and the nature of its site?
This inconsistency affects more Thisthan inconsistency the Schoolaffects of Architecture’s more thanacademic the Schoolintegrity. of Architecture’s It calls intoacademic questionintegrity. whether Itthe calls physical into question organization whether andthe character physicaloforganization the and charact Grounds reﬂects the University’s Grounds academic reﬂects mission, the University’s or whetheracademic it is a response mission, to the or whether University’s it is afund-raising, response tomarketing, the University’s and branding fund-raising, operation. marketing, and branding operation.
Is there not a difference between buildings that merely look Jeffersonian as opposed to the inﬁnitely more difﬁcult task of being Jeffersonian? Is stylistic simulation the sincerest form of respect, or does it devalue the authenticity of the truly historic? How is history remembered or honored by the destruction and neglect of genuine historical artifacts, such as the interior of the Rotunda in the 1970s, Miller Hall in the 2000s, or the Blue Ridge Sanatorium buildings, in tandem with the simultaneous construction of an ersatz physical history? Is it desirable that a building built in 1990 be mistaken for one built in 1830? Is UVA to become a theme park of nostalgia at the service of the University’s branding? Given the University’s goal to support diversity in students, faculty, and educational programs as a means of fostering excellence, should it not seek an architecture and physical structure that exempliﬁes this goal rather than one that contradicts it? Is there a problem in choosing an architecture to stand for the values of a university at the beginning of the twenty-ﬁrst century when that architecture was inaugurated at an historical moment when racial, gender, social, and economic diversity were less welcome? Should we not acknowledge that architectural forms change meaning over time? What would we make of the treatment of any academic discipline as static and so sacred that intellectual development, evolution and diversity are essentially legislated out of possibility, as has been done to the practice of architecture at this university? What would happen if other disciplines in the University were frozen in a mindset constrained by a nineteenth century world view? How is a nationally respected architectural faculty to reconcile its teaching with a physical context of mediocrity at odds with all that is valued in the School of Architecture?
We ask that the architectural future We ask of that the University the architectural and thefuture nature of of thethe University Jeffersonian and the architectural nature of legacy the Jeffersonian not be determined architectural in boardrooms, legacy not be butdetermined be debatedinopenly boardrooms, but be debate at every level of the University.at every level of the University.
This letter is the ﬁrst of a seriesThis of exchanges letter is theabout ﬁrst ofarchitecture a series of exchanges on the University about Grounds architecture thaton arethe planned University for this Grounds academic that are year.planned We lookforforward this academic to the participation year. We look forward to the par of many faculty and students, of in many and out faculty of theand School students, of Architecture, in and out in of this the School long-overdue of Architecture, dialogue and in this debate. long-overdue dialogue and debate. Julie Bargmann, Associate Professor and JulieDirector Bargmann, of Landscape AssociateArchitecture Professor and Director of Landscape Architecture Craig Barton, Associate Professor of Architecture Craig Barton, Associate Professor of Architecture Daniel Bluestone, Director of the Historic Daniel Preservation Bluestone,Program Director of the Historic Preservation Program Warren Boeschenstein, Professor of Architecture Warren Boeschenstein, Professor of Architecture Anselmo Canfora, Assistant ProfessorAnselmo of Architecture Canfora, Assistant Professor of Architecture WG Clark, Edmund Schureman Campbell WG Clark, Professor Edmund of Architecture Schureman and Campbell Past Chair Professor of Architecture and Past Chair Maurice Cox, Associate Professor of Architecture Maurice Cox, Associate Professor of Architecture Phoebe Crisman, Assistant Professor Phoebe of Architecture Crisman, Assistant Professor of Architecture Robin Dripps, T. David Fitz-Gibbon Professor Robin Dripps, of Architecture T. David and Fitz-Gibbon Past Chair Professor of Architecture and Past Chair Christopher Fannin, Lecturer in Landscape Christopher Architecture Fannin, Lecturer in Landscape Architecture Edward Ford, Vincent and Eleanor Shea Edward Professor Ford,ofVincent Architecture and Eleanor Shea Professor of Architecture Nataly Gattegno, Assistant Professor of Nataly Architecture Gattegno, Assistant Professor of Architecture
Jason Johnson, Assistant Professor ofJason Architecture Johnson, Assistant Professor of Architecture Judith Kinnard, Associate Professor ofJudith Architecture Kinnard, and Associate Past Chair Professor of Architecture and Past Chair Jenny Lovell, Assistant Professor of Architecture Jenny Lovell, Assistant Professor of Architecture John Quale, Assistant Professor of Architecture John Quale, Assistant Professor of Architecture Elizabeth K. Meyer, Associate Professor Elizabeth of Landscape K. Meyer, Architecture Associateand Professor Past Chair of Landscape Architecture and P William Morrish, Elwood R. Quesada Professor William Morrish, of Architecture Elwood R. Quesada Professor of Architecture David Rifkind, Lecturer in ArchitecturalDavid History Rifkind, Lecturer in Architectural History Elizabeth Roettger, Lecturer in Architecture Elizabeth Roettger, Lecturer in Architecture Elissa Rosenberg, Associate ProfessorElissa of Landscape Rosenberg, Architecture Associateand Professor Past Chair of Landscape Architecture and Pa Howard Singerman, Associate Professor Howard of ArtSingerman, History Associate Professor of Art History Kenneth Schwartz, Professor of Architecture Kennethand Schwartz, Past Chair Professor of Architecture and Past Chair Peter Waldman, William R. Kenan, Jr. Peter Professor Waldman, of Architecture William R.and Kenan, Past Jr. Chair Professor of Architecture and Past
19 Open Letter
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We stand for an architecture Wethat stand preserves for an architecture real histories thatwithout preserves constructing real histories ﬁctitious without ones. constructing ﬁctitious ones.
Who should determine the architectural future of the University, the University community, creative and recognized professionals, or those with wealth and power? Can an architecture of quality be achieved by a skin-deep veneer of stylistic uniformity, or does it demand a broader and deeper response? Why has the University commissioned so much mediocre architecture?
We would be better served by an architecture that sets aside empty stylistic gestures and glib historical references in order to respond to 1. the qualities of an individual discipline 2. the nature of a modern building 3. the character of an individual place.
Two names that should have appeared in the origional Open Letter are: Tomothy Beatly, Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities and past chair, Department of Urban and Environmental Planning Nicholas de Monchaux, Assistant Professor of Architecture
We stand for an architecture that does not begin and end with style. We stand for an architecture that engages tradition but is not ashamed of having been built in the twenty-ﬁrst century. We stand for an architecture that preserves real histories without constructing ﬁctitious ones.
We stand for an architecture that answers to technology without monumentalizing or suppressing it.
We stand for an architecture that evokes the qualities of traditional architecture, construction, and craft without recourse to symbolic, synthetic veneers lacking any virtue beyond familiarity.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
The undersigned School of Architecture faculty believe there is a fundamental schism between architecture as it is taught, practiced and studied as a discipline at our School and architecture as it is prescribed, controlled and marketed as a style by the Board of Visitors and administration.
This inconsistency affects more than the School of Architecture’s academic integrity. It calls into question whether the physical organization and character of the Grounds reﬂects the University’s academic mission, or whether it is a response to the University’s fund-raising, marketing, and branding operation.
We ask that the architectural future of the University and the nature of the Jeffersonian architectural legacy not be determined in boardrooms, but be debated openly at every level of the University. This letter is the ﬁrst of a series of exchanges about architecture on the University Grounds that are planned for this academic year. We look forward to the participation of many faculty and students, in and out of the School of Architecture, in this long-overdue dialogue and debate. Julie Bargmann, Associate Professor and Director of Landscape Architecture Craig Barton, Associate Professor of Architecture Daniel Bluestone, Director of the Historic Preservation Program Warren Boeschenstein, Professor of Architecture Anselmo Canfora, Assistant Professor of Architecture WG Clark, Edmund Schureman Campbell Professor of Architecture and Past Chair Maurice Cox, Associate Professor of Architecture Phoebe Crisman, Assistant Professor of Architecture Robin Dripps, T. David Fitz-Gibbon Professor of Architecture and Past Chair Christopher Fannin, Lecturer in Landscape Architecture Edward Ford, Vincent and Eleanor Shea Professor of Architecture Nataly Gattegno, Assistant Professor of Architecture
Note from the Editors: On September 7, 2005, faculty of the University of Virginia School of Architecture published a letter in The Cavalier Daily Newspaper. This letter marked the start of a continuing discussion about the status of architecture at the University of Virginia. The original format of the Open Letter has been published in lunch without alteration. Responses have in some instances been abbreviated to save space. Photos, included as part of the discussion, are provided by the editors. The published material represents a brief survey of a larger dialogue that has involved a broad audience beyond Charlottesville and the architectural community. The ongoing discussion can be accessed at www.uva-architecture-forum.org. Please help to stimulate this discussion by submitting your thoughts and opinions.
Jason Johnson, Assistant Professor of Architecture Judith Kinnard, Associate Professor of Architecture and Past Chair Jenny Lovell, Assistant Professor of Architecture John Quale, Assistant Professor of Architecture Elizabeth K. Meyer, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and Past Chair William Morrish, Elwood R. Quesada Professor of Architecture David Rifkind, Lecturer in Architectural History Elizabeth Roettger, Lecturer in Architecture Elissa Rosenberg, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and Past Chair Howard Singerman, Associate Professor of Art History Kenneth Schwartz, Professor of Architecture and Past Chair Peter Waldman, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Architecture and Past Chair
5/2/2006 2:42:35 AM
for readability, the text from ‘Common Sense in Architecture’ is reprinted below
In Response to the Faculty’s Open Letter Calling for New Modernist Buildings at UVa An Affirmation of New Traditional Architecture
Though open dialogue about the University’s architecture is essential, the University community should not defer to the architecture school’s modernists about what is and is not suitable on Grounds. The unsightly and unpopular Hereford College is a clear example of the further damage they would inflict at UVa: In 2003 the faculty awarded Hereford’s designers the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal. It is notable and not surprising that in their open letter several weeks ago the faculty did not use the word “beauty” even once. Architecture is necessarily a public art, always on prominent display in the public square. In a day of great social flux and technological change, of exciting possibilities and new challenges, architecture should serve as a shared source of beauty and hope rather than a deliberate source of heightened discord. Traditional architecture—offering inspiration and impetus to human progress, built with skilled craftsmanship in time-tested idioms of inexhaustible variety—appeals deeply to people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and means. Traditional architecture also is not only affordable but economically prudent because it is built to last. We truly can enjoy and celebrate the social and technological advances of the past 100 years, and those to come, and also enjoy new beautiful architecture. Profound change is underway. We commend the University. Darden, the McIntire School’s Monroe Hall addition, and the Miller Center’s Newman Pavilion are fine examples of new traditional architecture. We urge the University to continue its leadership in the ongoing renaissance of beauty, tradition, and common sense.
Despite what the faculty say in their open letter . . .
original response in the Cavalier Daily, October 17, 2005 courtesy of The Cavalier Daily
Traditional architecture is “of our time.” Traditions that advance the public good endure through time. Just as Jefferson used models of democracy from antiquity, he used models of architecture from antiquity, because they embody timeless ideals of humanity and beauty.
21 Open Letter Response Common Sense In Architecture
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Civilizations worldwide have nurtured architectural traditions of inspiring beauty. The architecture of the University of Virginia’s central Grounds, especially the Lawn, is one of the paramount examples of the classical tradition. Modernist architecture marked a deliberate break with that tradition, one made for shortsighted ideological reasons that has often had unfortunate consequences for the fabric of the University—and for cities and communities the world over. The nation’s modernist architectural establishment has taken secluded refuge in the academy, while all around them a groundswell of support for traditional architecture and urbanism has been rising. Today, an increasing number of traditional and classical architects are producing magnificent new buildings, campuses, and communities, inspired in no small part by the example of Jefferson’s “Academical Village.” Renewing a commitment to Jefferson’s artistic ideals, the University’s leadership, like that of other distinguished institutions, has begun to embrace this renaissance of beauty and common sense. It is only fitting that Jefferson’s University should play a leading role in this cultural renewal.
letter Linking traditional architecture and social injustice, as the faculty try to, is as irrational as linking technology and terrorism. Bigots have used buildings, and terrorists have used computers. Traditional architecture has nothing to do with social injustice. Rather, it gives inspiration and hope. The civil rights movement, for example, had its apotheosis on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
New traditional buildings do incorporate the newest technology and materials and do not cost more to build than modernist buildings. Some of the countless examples of new traditional buildings, with technology and amenities in abundance, are pictured here. You have a right to like the buildings that are built for you. Architecture is for everyone. It’s for the public good. It’s something everyone can understand, though the modernist faculty try to make it complex. What is good and bad for the University community is for the entire University community to decide. . . . traditional architecture makes common sense.
5/2/2006 2:42:40 AM
Architectural Integrity at UVA
A Letter to the Cavalier Daily
Professor, University of Virginia
Vincent and Eleanor Shea Professor of Architecture
Kenneth Schwartz, FAIA
What are we to make of an academic institution that treats ANY discipline as static and so sacred that intellectual development, evolution and diversity are essentially legislated out of possibility? Surely there would be a hue and cry among students, faculty, alumni and administration over a situation that in the extreme has more in common with totalitarian sensibilities than education in a democratic context. With some allowance for rhetorical excess, this is how many view the legacy of the past twenty or more years of construction at UVA. As a parallel example from another field, if the University had frozen the discipline of history (in deference to Jefferson), Ed Ayers and other “new historians of the South” would have never found careers here. In intellectual terms, we would be a backwater, teaching about the Civil War as if nothing had changed since 1860 or 1960. Fortunately, History, English and the humanities as a whole, the sciences, Engineering, Business, Medicine, Nursing and the Law have evolved, and they have flourished through diverse forms of inquiry and expression. They are not bound by fictive assumptions as measured against Jefferson’s intellectual inquiry in these fields. As a result of this willingness to explore and expand our body of knowledge, UVA is a much stronger and more diverse institution today than it was twenty years ago. This larger condition of progress makes the myopia and critical mindlessness surrounding architectural commissions at UVA all the more alarming. It is time to stand up to complacency and nostalgia. Attitudes about Jefferson’s architectural legacy need to be debated openly at every level of the University. The University community needs to understand that these actions are harming our prominent programs in architecture and landscape architecture as design-based disciplines. While our faculty and students continue to explore new ideas and approaches to design, we are seriously and negatively impacted by the reputation this University has developed as one of the most reactionary clients in the country in terms of architectural exploration. Damage extends to the University community as a whole, negating our institution’s identity as a site of progressive thought in favor of an architectural branding strategy that speaks only of the past and not the future.
As a member of the School of Architecture faculty and one of the now 37 signers of the open letter, I would like to respond to two comments made in the Cavalier Daily - that Classical architecture should be taught in the school and that the quality of the modern buildings at the University is poor. We are teaching Classical architecture, but as a discipline and not as a formula. My required courses include lectures on Classical practitioners such as Stanford White and Edwin Lutyens, Classical theoreticians such as Gottfried Semper and Carl Boetticher, and modern Classicists such as Otto Wagner and E. G. Asplund. When I taught introductory graduate drawing, the first day’s assignment was to go to the Lawn and do a detailed proportional analysis of an order. Peter Waldman’s Architecture 101 course is titled Lessons of the Lawn. Robin Dripp’s book The First House is, among other things, a long meditation on Vitruvius. Malcolm Bell of the Art Department, whose entire career has been devoted to the study of Ancient Greek art, is signer of the open letter. This is not to say that Classicism is the central focus of our teaching, or that it characterizes it in a literal way the design work of the school, only to say that it is our fundamental belief that an understanding of architecture in all periods and all cultures is essential to the practice of our profession. We are teaching the principles of Classical architecture; we are not teaching them in a way that satisfies neo-Classical practitioners, and we are not presenting Classical forms as incontrovertible facts not subject to question, nor teaching them as if they were so many recipes drawn from a cookbook. An obvious analogy is the teaching of traditional modes of art in other departments, and I would begin by pointing out that the open letter has been signed by nine members of the Art Department. I am not as familiar with the teaching methodologies of the English, Music or other arts disciplines as I would like, but I assume that to be a composer one must understand Beethoven and to be a poet one must understand Shakespeare, and that would include a fairly detailed understanding of the structural organization of their work, but that the end product of such an education would not include literal imitations of Beethoven sonatas and Shakespearian sonnets. As to the second question, the quality of Modern architecture at the University, we would agree that a large majority of modern buildings built here since 1960 are of a quality equally poor as that of the traditional buildings built since 1960, although the merits or faults of some of the former, Hereford College in particular, are matters of contention. For more specific answers to this question I would refer readers to our web site: http://www.uva-architecture-forum.org. Among all the participants in this debate there is a remarkable consensus- that the Lawn is an area of great sensitivity in terms of future development, that we should seek to use Jefferson’s architecture as point departure and that Jefferson should not be slavishly imitated but followed in principle. We are in complete agreement with this statement, and disagree only in its particulars, which admittedly seem to loom large. I have certainly not heard anyone call for avant-garde buildings, whatever those might be, on the lawn. Yet while I agree that this is not an issue of Classical versus Modern, the issue of literalism must be addressed. Is the Jeffersonian legacy one of literal signs or is a set of principles that can be extracted from his buildings? In this matter I would have to side with Emerson and say that it is the latter:
23 Open Letter Response Kenneth Schwartz, Edward Ford
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The University of Virginia has pursued a timid, insecure and flawed approach to the design of its new buildings. Under our governance system, with the strong financial support of sincere yet nostalgic alumni and organizations, and with academic leadership that has chosen to “go with the flow”, we find ourselves at a moment of alarming complacency and architectural mediocrity. Repeatedly creative architects and landscape architects are hired, and they are almost always fired when they demonstrate the temerity to interpret rather than replicate Jefferson’s rich legacy. Each is an independent story, but they share a common thread that can be traced to the limitations imposed by the University upon design and design thinking. The projected building and landscape additions to the School of Architecture by WG Clark, Bill Sherman, Warren Byrd, and SMBW Architects, under the leadership and vision of Dean Karen Van Lengen, are notable exceptions to an otherwise bleak picture.
Alumni and others should be challenged to look at the Lawn as something more than a Theme Park for a golden era of the past. The persistent demand for Jeffersonian replication is an insult to the creative interpretation of classical language that Jefferson advocated for the new Republic. He was not a “good classicist” of the conservative, unbending variety. He was an intellectually challenging, progressive, provocative risk-taker who often invented and created as he went along. He loved technology, new materials and experimentation. The University has lost these very Jeffersonian qualities in its insecurity and desire to try to maintain a strange and rigid connection with an imagined past. It is time to move forward.
There are all degrees of proficiency in knowledge of the world. One class live by the utility of the symbol; esteeming health and wealth in a final good. Another class live above this mark to the beauty of the symbol; as the poet, and artist, and the naturalist, and man of science. A third class live above the beauty of the symbol to the beauty of the thing signified; these are wise men.
5/2/2006 2:42:40 AM