Restoration of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia

Architect: John G. Waite Associates, Architects, PLLC

Owner: University of Virginia

Location: Charlottesville, Virginia

This restoration of the symbolic center of the University of Virginia—widely considered Thomas Jefferson’s single most important architectural achievement—relies on the highest level of historic preservation and building conservation care. Envisioned by Jefferson as a temple for learning, but largely relegated to administrative and ceremonial use, the Rotunda is once again a focus of university life.

The team began the project, commissioned to celebrate the Rotunda’s 200th anniversary, with a thorough historic structure report and measured drawings in order to study and understand the original design and the changes made over time. The structure was severely compromised in a catastrophic 1895 fire that left only its brick walls standing. Later, Stanford White attempted to replicate Jefferson’s design and intent but significantly altered the interior volumes. A poorly funded and researched renovation in the 1970s further compromised it.

The project tapped into some of the most advanced conservation measures available. A leaking roof was replaced with a copper one while specialist contractors cleaned, stabilized, and repointed the brick walls. The building’s exterior metal moldings, dating from the 1890s, were restored, and the deteriorated replacement column capitals on the north and south porticos were replaced with Carrara marble capitals that accurately replicate Jefferson’s originals.

Inside, the architects restored Jefferson’s volumes, finishes, and architectural details on all three floors. In the dome room, acoustic plaster replaced the perforated aluminum ceiling while cast plaster column capitals from the 1970s were replaced by ones of carved wood, again echoing Jefferson’s original intent. The project’s least noticed but perhaps most important element is the construction of a new mechanical, service, and storage space contained in a vault that was excavated beneath the east courtyard.

During the renovation, a chemical hearth dating to the 19th century was unearthed on the ground floor, the only trace of the original chemistry facility. Freed from its tomb, it is now the star of an exhibition that celebrates Jefferson’s Academical Village.

Additional information

Archaeologist:  Rivanna Archaeological Services LLC

Construction Manager:  Whiting-Turner Contracting Company

Architectural Historian:  Mount Ida Press

Civil Engineer:  Dewberry

Cost Estimator:  Nasco Construction Services, Inc.

Elevator Consultant:  Van Deusen & Associates, Inc.

Exhibit design:  Riggs Ward Design

Fire Protection and Building Code Consultant:  Jensen Hughes, Inc.

Furnishings Consultantl Glavé & Holmes Architecture

Geotechnical Engineer:  Froehling & Robertson, Inc.

Acoustician:  Cerami & Associates, Inc.

Land Surveyor:  Lincoln Surveying

Landscape Architect:  Olin

Lighting Design:  Available Light

Masonry Conservation Consultant: Frances Gale

Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing and Fire Protection Engineer:  Kohler Ronan, LLC

Metal Conservation Consultant: Andrew Lins

Plaster Conservation Consultant: Conservations Solutions, Inc.

Structural Engineer:  1200 Architectural Engineers, PLLC - Silman, Structural Engineers

Clock Restoration Consultant: Bob Desrochers

Electrician:  IES Commercial, Inc.

Mechanical Contractor:  Riddleberger Brothers, Inc.

Plaster Conservation:  John Canning & Company

Plasterer:  Interior Specialty Construction Inc.

Roofing:  W.A. Lynch Roofing Company, Inc.

Sheet Metal Restoration: American Stripping Company

Stone Installation:  Rugo Stone, LLC.

Stone Sculptor Studio:  Pedrini Mario & Co.

Window and Masonry Restoration: Centennial Preservation Group LLC

Wood Carving and Capital Fabrication: Tektonics Design Group

Clock Restoration Consultant:: Bob Desrochers

Electrician:  IES Commercial, Inc.

Exhibit Design:  Riggs Ward Design

Fountain Fabricator:  Fountain Craft Mfg.

Glass Doors:  Dodson Glass & Mirror

Interior Woodwork:  Cville

Light Restoration:  Crenshaw Lighting

Marble Capitals:  Pedrini S.P.A. Ad Unico Socio

Mechanical Contractor: Riddleberger Brothers, Inc.

Metal Roofing:  W.A. Lynch Roofing Company, Inc.

Plaster:  Interior Specialty Construction Inc.

Plaster Conservation:  John Canning & Company

Sheet Metal:  American Stripping Company

Stone installation:  Rugo Stone, LLC

Masonry:  M3 Masonry, Bearing Masonry

Window and Restoration and Masonry Restoration and Repointing:  Centennial Preservation Group LLC

Wood Carving and Capital Fabrication: Tektonics Design Group


Jeanne Chen, AIA, Chair, Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners, Santa Monica, California

Rania Alomar, AIA, RA-DA, West Hollywood, California

Alicia Berg, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

Raymond M. Bowman, Assoc. AIA, Pittsburgh, PA

Katherine K. Chia, FAIA, Desai Chia Architecture PC, New York, NY

Shannon R. Christensen, AIA, CTA Architects Engineers, Billings, Montana

Eugene C. Dunwody Jr., AIA, Dunwody/ Beeland Architects, Macon, Georgia

Henry Moss, AIA, Bruner/Cott & Associates, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts

David Rosa-Rivera, Savannah College of Art and Design, Bayamón, Puerto Rico

Image credits

South Lawn Exterior at Dusk

Anna Wesolowska

Center Stair Hall

Anna Wesolowska

Dome Room Middle Gallery

Anna Wesolowska

North Facade at Dusk

Anna Wesolowska

East Courtyard at Dusk

John G. Waite Associates, Architects, PLLC