Crozet Elementary School Receives 2020 Test of Time Award

Crozet Elementary School by VMDO Architects was intended to be a community anchor whose architecture reflects the modest, yet aspirational identity of this tight-knit, rural community. Thirty years later, AIA Virginia honors the project with the Test of Time Award for achieving a high standard of excellence and inspiring students, faculty, and staff with a unique and enduring design vision.

As Charlottesville and Albemarle County grew in the 1980s, traditionally agrarian communities like Crozet had to accommodate population growth while safeguarding the local ecology. Completed in 1990 and inspired by community stakeholders and a “village” concept, while also honoring classical Jeffersonian architecture, the design struck a balance between function and symbolism, which contributed to its distinctive forms. Writing in the pages of Inform Magazine, Elena Marcheso-Moreno noted, “Crozet Elementary grew out of a unique concept that highlights the image of the one-room schoolhouse. By recalling the ideal of the schoolhouse as an important town structure, this facility reinforces the importance of education while creating a new source of civic pride.”

VMDO recognized public expectations for a conventional main façade and balanced with a more progressive design throughout the rest of the 47,000 square feet of learning space. The school’s wings join together to encircle the library, in a nod to Thomas Jefferson’s placement of the Rotunda library at the center of his ideal campus plan less than 20 miles away. The library is the focal point and the heart of the school, and the enduring architectural characteristic that generations of students remember and cherish.

Light-filled classrooms and expansive views also figure prominently in the memories of former students–features long recognized as having health benefits, but rarely accomplished so thoughtfully and expertly as it was at Crozet. Lead designers Bob Moje, FAIA, and Randy Livermon, AIA, have steered this project and dozens of others by VMDO to continuously challenge the status quo of school design. Dan Simpson, now a principal at ZGF, also contributed significantly to the school’s design approach. Their goal at Crozet, beyond creating a salubrious learning environment, was to engender in students a lifelong love of learning about academic subjects, the natural world, materiality, and the power of good design.

“I know Crozet Elementary School very well and have a deep appreciation for the enduring quality of its design,” wrote Karen Marcus, School Principal from 2005 to 2010. “I believe that it set a new bar for school design and its legacy as an enjoyable and positive learning environment will last far into the future.”

The Test of Time Award will be presented at Visions for Architecture on Thursday, Oct. 8 in an online awards ceremony beginning at 4:30 p.m. The program is free but registration is required.

Claude Moore Education Complex

The recently completed expansion to the Claude Moore Education Complex features three new state-of-the-art culinary teaching environments. This collaboration between the Roanoke Higher Education Authority and Virginia Western Community College allows the culinary school to exist outside of the VWCC campus, and in close proximity to a multitude of restaurants, commercial kitchens, and future employment opportunities for their graduates.

In addition to serving as an educational facility, the existing complex includes a cultural icon, the historic Strand Theatre. Once home to the offices of one of the first African American filmmakers Oscar Micheaux, the building has hosted many great artists and musical legends. The design team worked with the neighborhood to develop and incorporate historic markers and artwork to help document and share the community’s rich history.

Located along the Henry Street Historic District, the design team at Spectrum Design worked with representatives of the Gainsboro neighborhood to develop a series of back-lit historic markers that showcase the rich story of the once thriving business and cultural hub. Panels are broken out into categories that feature famous entertainers that performed in the theater as well as prominent businesses and restaurants that once fronted Henry Street. A push-button at each panel triggers an oral history recording featuring interviews with neighborhood residents.

With an addition that respects the past, the Claude Moore Complex now looks to define its future.

The Claude Moore Education Complex was recognized with an Award of Merit in the Contextual Design category in 2019.

About the Project

Architecture Firm: Spectrum Design, PC

Owner: Roanoke Higher Education Authority

Contractor: Avis Construction

Photographer: Boyd Pearman Photography

Project Size: 18,000 SF TOTAL


Project Cost: $4,419,875

Institute for Contemporary Art at the Markel Center

“There is an ephemeral quality to the Institute for Contemporary Art at the Markel Center by BCWH Architects [now Quinn Evans] that has a captivating quality both inside and out. It draws visitors in for a transcendent experience enveloped in art.”

Sited at the edge of VCU’s campus in Richmond, Virginia, the new Institute for Contemporary Art at the Markel Center links the University with the surrounding community. At Richmond’s busiest intersection, Broad and Belvidere Streets, the building forms a gateway to the University with an inviting sense of openness. The main entrance is formed by an intersection of the performance space and forum, adding a vertical “Z” component to the “X-Y” movement of the intersection. The torsion of these intersecting bodies is joined by a “plane of the present” to the galleries in “forking time.”

The idea of “forking time” suggests that in the world of contemporary art there are many parallel time lines. The notion of one ongoing time line and its “grand narrative” of art history is questioned. The new Markel Center is organized into four galleries, each with a different character. Flexibility allows for four separate exhibitions, one continuous exhibition, or combinations. Galleries can be closed for installations without affecting the circulation to the others. One can begin the sequence through the four galleries by taking the over-sized elevator to the top and circling down, or by beginning at the lower gallery off the forum and moving up. Exposed concrete beams and planks in the galleries complement the concrete floors. As flexible spaces, the galleries can accept suspended art or projects anchored to the floor slab.

Vertical movement along the “plane of the present” links the galleries, the performance space, sculpture garden, and forum. Along this architectural promenade, the integration of all the building elements can be experienced in changing views.

The 41,000 sq ft building has a double front: one side opens from the city, the other from the VCU Campus, linking city and campus. On the ground level, the café opens directly onto the terrace, or “thinking field”, as does the forum. Paved in bluestone gravel, the garden is planted with gingko trees. A large reflecting pool shapes the sense of this garden as a “thinking field”.

The building is a dynamic experience of movement in time around the exterior as well as the interior. Approaching on foot from the west (from the University), the building unfolds in the parallax of changing perspectives. As you walk, the crunch of gravel under your feet is complemented by a view that gradually opens to reveal the lobby. If you arrive by car from the north, east, or south, the double vertical geometry in torsion marks a gateway presence, which changes shape as you pass by. At night, glowing planes of obscure glass activate the exterior. The flexible performance space has up to 240 seats and is designed to support a variety of musical, film, lecture, dance and performance art events.

The Markel Center’s fields of etched insulated glass are complemented by its greenish-grey zinc skin. Both materials constantly change their appearance under varying light and weather conditions.

The garden roofs include a sculpture terrace on the second level. The building is heated and cooled with geothermal wells and has achieved LEED gold certification.

The Institute for Contemporary Art at the Markel Center is a new gateway and catalyst, linking the University and the city of Richmond. With its inviting double-fronted forum opening to a serene “thinking field”, it provides spatial energy for the most important cutting-edge contemporary art exhibits.

The ICA’s architecture is an instrument for exhibitions, film screenings, public lectures, performances, symposia, and community events, engaging the University, the city, and beyond.

Project details:

Project Name: Institute for Contemporary Art at the Markel Center (Richmond, Va.)

Owner: The Institute for Contemporary Art, Virginia Commonwealth University

Associated Architect: BCWH Architects

Design Architect and Architect of Record: Steven Holl Architects

Contractor: Gilbane Building Company

Landscape Architect: Michael Boucher Landscape Architecture

Civil Engineer: VHB

Structural Engineer: Robert Silman Associates

MEP Consultants: ARUP and Ascent Engineering Group

Lighting Consultant: L’Observatoire International

Theatre Consultant: Theatre Consultants Collaborative

Technology and Security Consultant: Convergent Technologies Design Group

Food Service Consultant: Food Service Consultants Studio

Elevator Design: Jenkins & Huntington, Inc.

Curtain Wall Consultant: W.J. Higgins & Associates, Inc.

Sustainability Consultant: Sustainable Design Consulting, LLC