Great Minds Come Together - Jeffersonian Grounds Initiative

Great Minds Come Together

Spirit of Jeffersonian Collaboration at UVA

A recently discovered cistern in the Rotunda’s east courtyard leads local archeologists to clues to the Rotunda’s past.

Great minds may not always think alike, but they can certainly produce work of stunning beauty that stands the test of time.

While designing the Rotunda, Thomas Jefferson corresponded with Benjamin Henry Latrobe, another great architectural mind of the time, and one of America’s first professional architects. The two enjoyed a long association, sharing ideas and adapting them for their respective designs.

Now, several firms entrusted with the care and safeguarding of this architectural masterpiece provide us with a modern-day example of the spirit of Jeffersonian collaboration.

For the second major stage of the Rotunda renovation, the University has contracted with recognized leaders in the fields of historic preservation, landscape architecture, and archeological services to consult on the research, planning, and design of the work ahead. The firms have deep expertise and have received numerous awards for their previous projects. Moreover, their experience has direct relevance for the Rotunda project.

John G. Waite and Associates, Architects, has a meticulous approach to historic preservation that aptly suits the Rotunda’s current needs. No stranger to UVA, JGWA has worked on significant historic buildings on the Grounds since the 1980s and recently designed the roof replacement projects on the East and West Ranges. The company also prepared the 2007 comprehensive historic structure report for the Rotunda, which informs recent and future work in the Rotunda renovations.

Brian Hogg, UVA’s senior historic preservation planner, noted the national prominence of John G. Waite Associates’ projects. “Not only have they done work at Monticello, but they also restored the Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore, which was Latrobe’s masterpiece,” he said.

Landscape architecture and urban design firm OLIN, based in Philadelphia, has received numerous awards for its projects, including the 2010 American Society of Landscape Architect’s award for its Bryant Park project in New York City. In 2011 founding partner, Laurie Olin, received the society’s highest honor—the ASLA Gold Medal. In 2013, he received one of UVA’s top accolades—the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture—as well as the National Medal of Arts.

Mary Hughes, UVA’s senior landscape architect, described Olin as a landscape architect with the talent and creativity to re-imagine the Rotunda’s north terrace and courtyard spaces.

“These spaces are not being actively used on a daily basis,” she said. “We were looking for someone with the experience and confidence to be inspired but not intimidated by the history of the place.”

Joining Olin in collaborating on the Rotunda’s outdoor spaces is Patricia O’Donnell, founder and principal of Vermont-based Heritage Landscapes. O’Donnell led the preparation in 2013 of the University’s first-ever Cultural Landscape Report (CLR) for the Academical Village. She worked closely with Hughes and others at UVA (including a peer advisory committee created for the project) to gather sources offering insight into the Academical Village’s continuity and change over time.

“O’Donnell is a national and international authority in her field,” Hughes said. “She did the CLR for the U.S. Capitol and the Mall in Washington, D.C. and many other highly significant historic landscapes.”

Rounding out the team of great minds is the consulting group, Rivanna Archeological Services, based in Charlottesville, which provides professional archaeological and historical research and related cultural resource management to private- and public-sector clients. Its principals—Benjamin P. Ford and Stephen M. Thompson—hold doctorate degrees from UVA in anthropology and archeology, respectively.

Hogg praised the firm’s “thoughtful” approach to archeological excavation and documentation. “With the recent discovery of the cistern in the Rotunda’s east courtyard, for example, Rivanna is working carefully and helping us refine and understand the history of the daily life of the early University,” he said.