Charlottesville Mall, Charlottesville, VA

Documenting Halprin's Charlottesville Mall

Research Progress to Date

University of Virginia (UVA) students and faculty in Architectural History and Landscape Architecture started site documentation of and research on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall in the Fall 2008 semester. The preliminary documentation and research done by the students took place within a graduate design studio titled Landscape Additions, taught by Professor Elizabeth K. Meyer, FASLA. During the Fall semester, students learned about the Mall's history through archival research, site visits, lectures and interviews with Dean Abbott (Adjunct Professor, University of Minnesota) who was the project designer for the Mall when he worked at Lawrence Halprin Associates and landscape historian Alison Hirsch (Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design), whose dissertation focused on Halprin's innovative Take Part community workshops, including one in Charlottesville.

Charlottesville Downtown Mall Charlottesville Mall

The landscape architecture students' findings were compiled into a small publication in January 2009. This project was selected for a Virginia Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects Student Award for Communications. The work will continue during the Spring 2009 term as an urban community history research workshop under the direction of Professor Daniel Bluestone, Director of the Historic Preservation program. The student research in his course establishes a social history context for understanding the relationship between the Halprin design for the Mall and mid-twentieth century "urban renewal" in Charlottesville.

The National Endowment for the Arts has selected "Designing Community: A Social + Design History of Charlottesville’s Pedestrian Downtown Mall" (Lawrence Halprin & Associates, 1973 Community workshop, 1974 Downtown Master Plan, 1976 Public Space design) for a 2009 Design Arts Stewardship award. This grant, awarded to Preservation Piedmont and the Charlottesville Community Design Center (CCDC), will fund continued documentation, research and oral history interviews leading to a publication and public colloquium about the Halprin-designed Mall. The work will be completed by UVA graduate students at the direction of Meyer in collaboration with Daniel Bluestone; Lydia Brandt; Jane Fisher, Director of CCDC.

Construction Progress to Date

In January 2009, construction firm Barton Malow Company began the rehabilitation of the Mall. Work includes replacement of the original brick 4”x12” brick pavers with new bricks of the same size set in sand and upgrading the electrical and plumbing infrastructure. After public opposition to the degree of design changes proposed last Spring, the current scope of work does not include new fountains, play areas or public art. While many in the community wish that the uneven brick surface caused by a decade or more of deferred maintenance had been repaired rather than replaced, there is general consensus that Halprin's design intent and character have been protected.

Thousands of the 375,000 original bricks removed from the Mall are for sale to the public and can be obtained by contacting Shannon Morris. Learn more

The Mall renovation is now approximately 2/3 complete. To follow the progress, visit My Downtown Mall.