Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Beyond an Initial Campus Heritage Survey: Creating an Infrastructure for Renewal

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Beyond an Initial Campus Heritage Survey: Creating an Infrastructure for Renewal

Article excerpt

How can an institution define its cultural heritage and its academic mission as intrinsically linked?


Over the next decade, many colleges and universities will be faced with an unprecedented increase in the management and maintenance demands of an aging facilities inventory, including a large number of historic structures and landscapes. To provide for proper stewardship and continued use of these historic assets, campus administrators will be challenged to develop support strategies that both recognize the intrinsic and emotional value of these facilities and appreciate their capabilities to accommodate future trends in learning and research. Often it is presumed that these facilities are not capable of supporting current academic demands, but this opinion does not coincide with existing examples of successful continued use and adaptive reuse of historic buildings and grounds witnessed at many older colleges and universities from Scripps College to Florida Southern College, from the University of Toronto to the University of Mexico.

Additionally, it is now generally acknowledged that the embodied energy represented in both historic and "just-plain-older" structures is important in reducing the demolish and rebuild cycle and its resulting introduction of large amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other toxic residues during reconstruction efforts. Therefore, the reuse of older structures aligns favorably with institutional commitments and intentions in the sustainability arena. In short, adaptively reusing a campus's existing facilities creates success in terms of both physical character and sustainability. Also, given the current economic climate, renewal and restoration of existing structures may be a realistic necessity because of dwindling public and private financial support for new capital developments.


In 2003, the University of Virginia (UVa) was fortunate to receive one of the 15 awards issued by the Campus Heritage Initiative program of the J. Paul Getty Trust during its second year of operation. This grant, more than matched by university funding, was designed to survey and evaluate structures and landscapes that had been constructed since the completion of Thomas Jefferson's Academical Village in 1828 and that had reached, at a minimum, the 40th anniversary of their occupancy.

The exclusion of Jefferson's buildings and landscapes from the grant recognizes that the area of the Academical Village (38.5 acres) is listed as a World Heritage Site within the expanse of the university's current campus (1,135 acres). This designation assures the continued survival of these landscapes and buildings, although it does not mandate their overall condition. There are now 911 properties on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Of these, 704 are cultural, 180 are natural, and 27 are combined. Only four are solely active university sites: Acala de Henares (Madrid, Spain), Universidad Nacional Autonoma (Mexico City, Mexico), Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas (Caracas, Venezuela), and the University of Virginia (Charlottesville, Virginia, USA).

This status, by itself, is both an incredible privilege and a huge responsibility that can frequently overshadow the fact that a significant number (32) of federally- and state-listed historic buildings and cultural landscapes also exist at UVa and need daily access and continuing care. The reason UVa uses 40 years for the evaluation of buildings and landscapes, rather than the normally recognized 50 years, may be obvious to those who have been involved in historic preservation for some time - to avoid the last-minute "demolition-during-the-last-few-years-before-50" thinking of some uninformed parties. But the more important reason is that my office, UVa's Office of the Architect, wanted to create a heightened sense of awareness within the campus, the regional community, and the university's network of supporters that there are other historic preservation resources that extend far beyond the traditional Jeffersonian appeal of the Academical Village to alumni, faculty, and students. …

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