Morven Research Institute

Course:  ARCH 5590 | Faculty Research Seminar | Fall 2010 | University of Virginia

Critics:  Karolin Moellmann, William Sherman

Program:  Bathing facility for students of the proposed Morven Research Institute.

Background:   In 2001, John W. Kluge gifted 7,379 acres, valued in excess of $45 million, to the University of Virginia Foundation.  Just outside of Charlottesville, the properties comprised 11 farms and estates, including Morven Farm.  The Foundation sold 4,466 acres to establish two endowments to support estate maintenance and programs, and currently holds 2,913 acres known as Morven.  Morven’s current acreage includes 43 buildings, Formal Gardens, and a Japanese Garden from the 1990s.

I was selected as one of two undergraduates in a group of five students in the School of Architecture to participate in a Faculty Research Seminar with William Sherman and Karolin Moellmann.  The seminar was tasked with using Morven as a Research Institute and creating a proposal for the adaptive re-use of three state-of-the-art horse barns on the property for research and residential use as well as the design of a bathing facility to support student housing in one of the barns.  My role in the project primarily involved site analysis and design of the bathing facility.

The project is currently undergoing a feasibility study.

Bathing Facility Concept:  The overall concept for a living experience at the proposed Morven Research Institute is one which questions conventional standards of living for university students.  Our vision is one of a living and learning environment that engages, and has minimal impact upon, Morven’s stunning landscape.

In collaboration with a graduate student in the Masters of Landscape Architecture program, we rigorously analyzed our site at a number of scales, from the immediate vicinity of where we were considering integrating a bathing facility to Morven’s watershed.  This analysis included calculations of expected rainfall as well as accurately documenting springs, streams, and irrigation infrastructure existing on the site.

In a design process which oscillated among site visits, case study analysis, and design charrettes, we considered a number of different sites and bathing concepts, all of which were fundamentally rooted in water systems, natural features, and infrastructural design.  Our final design is systematically and formally positioned on a slope between the “Living Barn” and a damp, low-lying valley.  Aiming to operate independent of wells or conventional water infrastructure, the bathing facility creates and occupies an intersection within the natural flow of water from the roof of the “Living Barn” to the damp lowland, harvesting rainwater and filtering it using a combination of a Living Machine filtration system and constructed wetlands.  Water consumption is mitigated through the use of composting toilets as well as through making visible the water storage cisterns and filtration systems.

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