As I walk to class each day, I notice the large number of construction projects going on around Grounds. I count all of the repair work I see walking to different classes of mine, and there are no less than six construction projects that I pass on my fifteen minute walk to class. SIX. The number never seems to change because as one project ends, another begins. Are all of these building projects necessary? Do we really need to detour three different times walking to classes? I would much prefer to look at the beautiful, historical architecture than to run into a piece of equipment.
The mission statement of the University of Virginia details the importance of beauty on Grounds, defining their “enduring commitment to a vibrant and unique residential learning environment.” In valuing the advancement of unappealing modern architecture, UVA has created a learning environment that is neither vibrant nor unique. UVA values its prestige within the community of higher education and students pride themselves on going to such an esteemed institution of learning. UVA has put its reputation of prestige above all else, including creating a welcoming environment that students want to spend time in. These monotonous construction tones of red dirt, metal fencing and bright orange signs disincentivize students from spending valuable time on Grounds. Most students have already had their time on Grounds cut short because of UVA’s COVID-19 policies, so why is UVA Administration okay with taking away more from students? UVA needs to limit their total number of construction projects and get current projects done in a timely manner.
Want to go from Memoral Gymnasium to Ruffner Hall? Then you have to snake your way across Emmet Street with cars who may or may not stop as you approach the crosswalk. Plan on having a nice lunch on the steps of the amphitheater? Think again because any time you look to the surrounding buildings, the construction project at Minor Hall automatically drops your mood. Students rushing down McCormick Road are frequently stopped for trucks trying to turn from Cabell Drive to McCormick Road. The list continues because the number of construction projects is too large.
For many new students, navigating a University is a difficult task. Most students can recall a horror story where they walked into the wrong building or classroom or just simply got lost. Once you get the hang of it, most can navigate Grounds with ease–but imagine entering a building for the first time and needing to walk under scaffolding to do so. In comparison to other college campuses, UVA is failing to provide an immersive environment where a student can be inspired by all of the beauty present on Grounds.
Most of these construction projects appear to be delayed or are not actively being worked on at all. The only one constantly being worked on is the Alderman Library construction, which causes many more problems other than just not being able to walk into the building. Sitting in Clemons Library at almost any time of day, you can expect to hear construction noise that completely shuts down any hope of getting work done. This is not just because of the construction next door, but also the construction being done to the balconies on Clemons. If you live anywhere close to Alderman Library, you can also prepare for construction noise to carry on late into the night and wake you up early in the morning.
For students five to seven years down the road, I would say they are going to have a beautiful campus. But, that may not be true because construction at universities is a never ending process. This continual construction is not worth the end result. It detracts from the beauty of the school and makes for a massive hassle. Modern buildings will not suffice because most are meant to be buildings of efficiency without any remnants of the Renaissance era that inspires awe in observers. UVA students want a Grounds that will inspire them and are reminiscent of the beautiful buildings of another era. UVA buildings should be beautiful, each one full of history and matching with the architecture of the Lawn and Rotunda.