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Rouss & Robertson Halls
University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce
Charlottesville, Va.

Rouss & Robertson Halls
University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce
Charlottesville, Va.

August 11, 2010
Rouss Hall retains its historic charm and Jeffersonian architecture from the exterior
Rouss Hall, a historic 24,000-sf building designed by Stanford White, served as the home of the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce from 1955 to 1975. Thirty years later, the university unveiled plans to have the business school return to the small, outdated 110-year-old facility, but this time with the addition of a 132,000-sf companion building to be named Robertson Hall. The two facilities would connect around a central courtyard to create one large, 156,000-sf complex, at a cost of $39 million.

Grand staircase from the historic Rouss Hall descending into Robertson Hall, a 132,000-sf addition
Grand staircase into the outdoor plaza, located outside of Robertson Hall
View of the University’s first green roof system, which is located on the roof of Robertson Hall.
Construction began in April 2005, and from the outset the Building Team, including the Richmond, Va., office of construction manager Gilbane, was presented with a number of logistical hurdles.

Chief among these was the site. Rouss Hall sat on the historic great lawn designed by Thomas Jefferson himself, and there was no way that that sacred ground could be touched. The site was deeply sloped at the rear, and the facility was hemmed in by other buildings.

Since there was absolutely zero possibility of carving out space from Jefferson’s lawn, the Building Team decided its best chance for squeezing in 132,000 sf of building space was at the back. That’s when they confronted the second hurdle, the 150-year-old Varsity Hall. This they salvaged and moved 185 feet downhill from its original site.

Putting Varsity Hall in its new location, however, meant that valuable on-site lay-down space was lost, so the Building Team was forced to store materials and equipment a few miles away. The final hurdle came from the need to minimize disruption to nearby occupied academic buildings. To do this, access to the site was restricted to a single 10-foot-wide route.  

The Washington, D.C., office of Hartman-Cox Architects designed both Rouss Hall and the new Robertson Hall to serve as high-tech, flexible academic spaces to promote interdisciplinary study. Most of the academic space is concentrated in the larger Robertson Hall, but both buildings are wireless, are fitted with state-of-the-art videoconferencing and media facilities, and have classrooms and labs with floor boxes for power, audio, visual, data, and phone. Thus, all the furniture can be free-standing and easily rearranged.

While the interiors are decidedly 21st century, exteriors hearken back to the 19th century in order to blend with the campus’s iconic Jeffersonian architecture. Rouss Hall already matched the school’s classic aesthetic, but its masonry had to undergo extensive cleaning, re-pointing, and re-mortaring. All of its windows were removed, refurbished, and reinstalled. 

New skylights were installed. Decorations and details were preserved or reconstructed. New acroteria were added. It took nearly three years, but the “Back to the Lawn” project had succeeded.

In designing Robertson Hall, the Building Team took pains to create a seamless transition between the new building and Rouss Hall. One feature sets Robertson Hall apart, however: its green roof, a first in the university’s 183-year history, and surely a design feature Mr. Jefferson would have approved.

Project Summary
University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce, Rouss & Robertson Halls
Charlottesville, Va. 

Building Team
Submitting firm:
Gilbane Building Company (CM)
Owner: University of Virginia
Architect: Hartman-Cox Architects
Structural engineer: Thornton Tomasetti Cutts LLC
ME engineer: Affiliated Engineers Inc.

General Information
Area: 156,370 sf
Construction cost: $39 million
Construction time: April 2005 to January 2008
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