Spectrum Logo
A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

CAUS dedicates Burchard Hall

By Sandy Broughton

Spectrum Volume 21 Issue 06 - October 1, 1998

Faculty members, students, alumni, and friends gathered last Friday for the dedication of Charles H. Burchard Hall, Tech's newest academic building. The late Dean Emeritus Charles H. Burchard was founding dean of Virginia Tech's College of Architecture and Urban Studies. During Burchard's 14-year tenure as dean, from 1965 to 1979, he transformed the college into one of the top colleges in the nation. Burchard was 75 when he died in 1990.
Keynote speaker for the dedication was William L. Porter, Leventhal professor of architecture and planning at MIT. As dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT from 1971 to 1981, Porter was a contemporary of Burchard. He remembered Burchard as "a revered figure from whom we all learned a great deal," an educator whose thinking and writing emphasized inter-disciplinary collaboration, group work, and use of the design studio as a free, exploratory laboratory. "These were revolutionary thoughts in the mid-1960s and they still are," Porter said.
"Dean Burchard profoundly influenced the course of architecture education at Virginia Tech and is remembered as a mentor to generations of college alumni and faculty members," said Paul Knox, dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. "His ground-breaking, outside-the-box approach to architectural education was years ahead of its time and has come to be widely influential."
Burchard Hall is located between Cowgill and Burruss halls. The 42,000-square-foot building addresses the acute shortage of space for the architecture and industrial design programs at Virginia Tech. Though built below ground level, the high-ceilinged studio area is illuminated by natural light through skylights which reduce energy consumption and are controlled by louvers activated by solar sensors.
"This new space puts us in the top tier of architecture colleges globally," said Frank Weiner, head of the Department of Architecture. "We hope it will foster the kind of pedagogical innovations that have been the hallmark of architecture programs at Virginia Tech for many years."
The centerpiece of Burchard Hall is the 16,000-square-foot studio space. Each studio quadrant is equipped with a seminar room, darkroom, and computer room. The studio area has an under-floor wiring system that gives each student access to data and power. Faculty offices overlook the studios.
Special facilities include a wood and metal shop, ceramics studio, printmaking studio, and silk screen studio. The plastics laboratory, plaster shop, and spray paint rooms are all new to the college and will be used extensively by both architecture and industrial-design students.
Bob Dunay, associate dean for professional programs and director of the Industrial Design Program, chaired the college committee that worked with the university architect and the architecture firms of Shriver and Holland of Norfolk, and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill of Washington, D.C., on Burchard Hall. "Burchard Hall is one of the best examples of the `fill-in' concept in building. Rather than expand the campus on the edges, we have built in between existing buildings and improved the space on top," Dunay said.
The design and construction of the building included the restoration and improvement of Cowgill Plaza, on top of Burchard Hall, as an open area for campus-wide use. The plaza is more than an acre of public space, and has become a popular gathering place. "Sometimes unbuilt spaces have more impact than built spaces," said Henry V. Shriver in his remarks at the dedication. Shriver is a partner with Shriver and Holland Associates and an alumnus of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. He was architect and project director for both Burchard and Cowgill halls.
Charles Steger, vice president for Development and University Relations, was dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies when plans began for the new building. "It is one of the most interesting and exciting spaces on campus," Steger said. "Enrollment demands have meant a shortage of space for these programs for more than a decade. I'm delighted that this building is occupied by students and faculty members."