The Morven Studio

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Architecture and Landscape Architecture 702/802, Spring 2010

Every work of human construction is inextricably tethered to the complex systems with which it interacts in its formation and inhabitation. All works are simultaneously disruptive and productive, transforming material and energy flows in ways that may either build or destroy the foundations of healthy physical and cultural ecologies. This studio explores a site with a deep human history and a rich environmental fabric in ways that reinforce these legacies while serving as a setting for ongoing study.

In 2001, the University received the gift of the Morven Property from John Kluge. In its current form of nearly 3,000 contiguous acres coincident with the boundaries of a sub-basin at the head of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the property is the setting for human settlement patterns dating from pre-colonial Native American communities through its development as a plantation, working farm and private home to its current status as a university property with diverse ecological characteristics. The university was exploring potential uses for the property and coordinated a series of courses that addressed its multiple dimensions. This studio developed several scenarios for the future of Morven, with designs for the buildings and landscape that engage with the history and ecology of the site.

The studio met with faculty and students from two other courses/studios for one hour per week, including:

Hank Shugart and Manuel Lerdau, EVSC 4559, section 21622: Accelerating Landscape Succession in Virginian Piedmont Forests.
Scot French, HIST 4993: Morven Farm: The Rural Virginia Landscape as Social and Cultural History Site
Guest Lectures by Jon Cannon, Law; George Overstreet, Commerce; Kristina Hill, Landscape Architecture; Tim Rose, University Real Estate Foundation
Visiting Critic Stefan Behnisch

Programs included research facilities for multidisciplinary teams, test sites for environmental research and monitoring, conference facilities and housing for visiting researchers, design studios and facilities for developing physical prototypes for inhabiting the site, research spaces for landscape architecture, including healing landscapes, space for experimental work in the fine and performing arts, educational facilities for the broader community and infrastructural connections within the site and between the site, the university and the city of Charlottesville.

The guiding intention was to develop a model for a research university in which the land not only provides the setting but also the subject for the research. At the core of the research mission for the site, and the institution that inhabits it, is the recognition that the future of human habitation and the health of the globe requires a new level of innovation in the understanding of and engagement with our inherited and constructed ecologies.

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