Assistant professor of historic preservation Michael Spencer is in the process of drawing up a Preservation Plan that will work to determine the historical significance of each building on campus. This Preservation Plan will work in conjunction with President Rick Hurley’s Master Plan for the advancement of the university.
“A Historic Preservation Plan will give us data and information about the history of each building on campus and its historic significance,” said Hurley.
“It will also provide us with recommendations/guidance on how we should proceed, in terms of construction methods and materials, if we determine we have to renovate a particular building that has historic value,” he added in an email interview.
Senior Kayla Kuhn questions the quality of new construction.
“Part of the draw of this school is historical relevance,” Kuhn said. “Sometimes they try to copy historical elements, but it looks dumb or contrived.”
Spencer also recognizes the value of the campus’s unique architecture.
“In academia authenticity and association with long standing traditions and tangible historic structures, adds validity to the experience,” Spencer said. “It also adds a sense of association and individuality to an institution, something that generic “office park” architecture just cant do. Where would UVA be without the Rotunda…remember that the Rotunda was also ‘only’ a hundred years old once, like many of our structure here at UMW, and it indeed was altered with an annex and only later, after a fire, returned back to its original configuration.”
A steering committee appointed by Hurley will help guide this effort, according to the historic preservation department’s new blog.
There will be work on the development of the Preservation Plan during this semester, but the real updates will come at the end of the summer, according to Spencer. They hope to have it ready to present at the Board of Visitor’s meeting in September.
The plan will evaluate the historical significance of each of the buildings and develop guidelines for various graded buildings.
For example, a grade one building would likely be recommended for repair rather than replacement due to its historical value, according to Spencer.
Freshman Christine Grilliot feels that there is enough construction on campus already.
“I live in Virginia,” Grilliot said. “It’s one of the older ones. I think it should be preserved, it has such a sturdier structure.”
There are other factors aside from historical significance to consider, such as the condition of the building itself, Spencer said.
The Preservation Plan is meant to assist the Master Plan, according to Spencer. There may be times when the two come into conflict, at which point alternative solutions may be addressed.
“For example, [the Master Plan] calls for the demolition of Jefferson,” Hurley said. “The information contained in the Preservation Plan about Jefferson will determine if we proceed as planned or cause us to seek alternatives to a complete demolition or maybe not touch the building at all.”
According to Spencer, it will be a case-by-case issue like this with each of the buildings. A grade two building won’t necessarily be destined for demolition, or a grade one for restoration.
Junior Matt Blair said, “I would like to see Framar and South preserved, because they represented a vital part of diversity and inclusivity. That whole atmosphere is extremely important for those who live there. Where else do you have actual homes on campus?”
“At the end of the day, everyone needs to be aware that compromise is the name of the game,” said Spencer.
The plan will also create a history and design context for each of the construction projects. The idea is to modernize the campus while still maintaining its cultural integrity.
“Preservation in general doesn’t look at mimicking the past. Basically we’re looking to encourage new design that is created within the design context of the campus,” said Spencer. “The idea is that we don’t want to copy our past history but rather add to our future.”
There will be ongoing public updates on the historic preservation department’s website, which can be viewed at http://hisp.umwblogs.org/.
Spencer encourages students to post comments on the blog to show that they’re really invested in campus development or to bring in outside experts or guest lecturers to add validity and support to their opinions.
“We’re not going to sneak something through the door without allowing for proper public comment,” Spencer said. “That obviously shows that they [the administration] listened to the alumni and students.”