The Commons: UVA Darden’s Central Halls, Reimagined
What started several years ago as a brainstorming session with students, staff and faculty on the future of University of Virginia Darden School of Business facilities has evolved into a sophisticated Master Plan that envisions the future of the Darden Grounds. The comprehensive plan includes many enhancements to existing buildings, the addition of new buildings, such as a fully updated Inn and Conference Center, and the introduction of beautiful outdoor features that establish an oftrequested connection to the UVA Law School and Central Grounds. While the Master Plan draws the blueprint for the Darden Grounds of the future, the immediate priority is to expand the School’s central space into a facility called The Commons.
“This space,” said Dean Scott Beardsley, “will bring together students — both current and prospective — faculty, alumni and distinguished guest lecturers in a centralized location on Grounds, fostering interaction and innovative thinking on all fronts.”
A key fundraising component of Darden’s forthcoming capital campaign, this grand community foyer recasts and expands the central halls of Darden and sets the stage for the School to continue offering the world’s best business education experience. The Commons will physically join the Abbott Center, Saunders Hall and the Classroom Building in a multi-use area that encourages collaboration. Student services, including Admissions, Financial Aid and the Career Development Center, will relocate to The Commons, bringing core resources for Darden students to the heart of the Grounds. Inspiring architectural features, including a grand staircase and a 360-degree balcony overlooking the main floor, will improve connectivity and wash the space in natural light. Existing classrooms and learning team rooms will be upgraded and connected to the outdoors. Cutting-edge technology, modernized dining facilities and world-class hospitality will enhance not only the graduate student experience but also Darden Executive Education programs and school conferences and events.
Darden’s Chief Strategy Officer and Senior Associate Dean Mike Lenox sees The Commons as “the means to bring Darden to where it needs to be as we look ahead to the future. It will enable the ‘illimitable freedom of the human mind,’ which is essential at the dawn of the University of Virginia’s third century and as we at Darden work to capitalize on the School’s unique position as UVA’s graduate business school.”
The vision for The Commons as a top priority of Darden’s upcoming campaign has been long in the making. The idea for the space was first conceived in response to results from a 2014 survey conducted by a consulting firm in which students, faculty and staff imagined how a learning environment could best meet the needs of the Darden community and enhance the educational experience. The survey results revealed a desire for technologically advanced and cutting-edge facilities that support collaboration and thought leadership — creatively, digitally and globally. A list of five important issues to address via facilities emerged:
- Create a core destination for Darden.
- Provide connection and circulation between the multiple buildings and levels.
- Bring natural light into the interior spaces.
- Incorporate technology into classrooms, media production and study spaces.
- Address visibility in showcasing Darden’s many assets and enable circulation between departments.
With these five guideposts at the forefront, Robert A.M. Stern Architects created architectural plan concepts — a roadmap for Darden facilities. That same year, Beardsley began his term as the ninth dean of the School, providing additional momentum for the project. Under Beardsley’s leadership, the School also launched its Darden Worldwide strategic plan to fulfill the full potential of the School’s mission. The conceptual plans align with the Darden Worldwide priorities and will enable projected enrollment growth; modernize aging facilities to remain competitive with peers; enhance research; improve the student, faculty, staff and alumni experience; and amplify connectivity between Darden and UVA.
In 2017, the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees and the University of Virginia Board of Visitors approved the plan for The Commons, and now Darden alumni and generous supporters have the opportunity to move the project forward to its next phase — finalized architectural plans followed by groundbreaking —through private philanthropy.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Director of Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia