ONARCHITECTURE- Historic measures: Jeff Center to break ground


It's been nine months since UVA's  Jefferson Scholars Foundation leveled the Eugene Bradbury designed Beta House on Maury Avenue. The demolition went forward despite strong objections from local preservationists as well as from City Council, who denied additional bond financing to the Jefferson Scholars Foundation because they were not satisfied with the Foundation's efforts to consider preserving the house as it pushed to make way for its new 28,000 square foot, $21 million headquarters. Indeed, on a recent drive-by, we noticed the site looked nearly abandoned. So, what's the deal? Was the historic residence and frat house, which UVA architectural historian Daniel Bluestone called "one of the most important houses built in Charlottesville in the last century," demolished for nothing?

Scholars Foundation president James Wright and project architect Bob Moje of VMDO Architect are now communicating through a publicist who says there will be a ground breaking "some time in the next two weeks," and at that time all the details will be revealed to the media. Initial plans called for the project to begin sometime in early summer. 

However, in a presentation on the VMDO website, some details (including the architectural renderings displayed here) about the project have already been revealed. While the Beta House was home to frat boys for 50 years, the new Jeff Center will be home to "graduate, doctoral, and postdoctoral candidates of extraordinary intellectual range and depth."

To help them plumb those depths, the building will feature quiet research and study areas, an outdoor courtyard/garden space for "contemplation and respite," and common areas designed to help "cross-pollinate" students and researchers from different disciplines in an effort to, excuse the garden motif, help germinate innovative ideas.

The building will also include "numerous environmentally friendly design elements," such as geo-thermal heating and cooling systems and a rainwater recycling system for irrigation. VMDO also says that an ambitious LEED gold rating will be sought for the building, the official standard by which "greenness" is measured. 

Of course, preservationists had argued that saving the old building would have been the most environmentally friendly thing to do. As local green builder Michael Courts pointed out, "you can't get much greener than saving an old house, which is essentially recycling something instead of throwing it away."

However, as Moje told the Hook back in December, the Beta House wasn't worth saving for this kind of project, having been "decimated by 50 years of fraternity use."

Back in January, angry preservationists hung this protest sign on the fence surrounding the demolished Beta House.