Category Archives: Nature Observations/Views

Nau and Gibson Hall

One of the places that houses some of the best views for those that want to study is the relatively new Nau/Gibson Hall building. While the building branches out into two sides that house classrooms and meeting areas, the middle area is completely open with tables for anyone who needs a place to study. Large, open areas for studying are not new around grounds; many of the libraries have similar types of spaces. However, the thing that makes Nau and Gibson Hall so special is the easy access views of nature out of the front window.


When building this space, it is obvious that the architects thought about how it would be used and how a clear view of nature would enhance it. The entire façade of the main entrance of the building is made of glass which allows plenty of natural light to enter and allows for views of nature from every angle. Some may argue that this nature is a little too trimmed and maintained to constitute as “wild,” but the fact that there is such a prevalent push to be able to see trees and grass is definitely a step in the right direction. Even the meeting rooms and offices around the side of the building make a point of having plenty of windows in every room.

On the top of the three stories, there is also a glass wall on the back side of the building that opens onto a land bridge that crosses Jefferson Park Avenue. It is also obvious that nature was integrated as an important part of this bridge, because just after you step out of the third floor you can get a great view of the land bridge. Because of this, the third floor seems to be one of the most sought out spaces to study as well – I have regularly seen it filled with people. It offers the most natural light and views from both sides while still being a fairly quiet and suitable place to do work.




Every time I have walked through Nau or Gibson Hall, almost every study table has been full, which is a testament to how much people like to study there. I think that it is in part because of these views of green spaces and the ability to see out onto a natural space (there could also be some natural attraction to the top floor because of the Urban Cliff Hypothesis). I can only hope that future university buildings offer the ample views that Nau and Gibson Hall give students.

Post by Brett Offutt

A Refreshing View

People love to experience nature in everyday life. Whether it’s reading, relaxing, exercising, eating, or sleeping, normal human activities are more enjoyable in the outdoors, or with a view of nature. One activity, or task as its often seen, is often overlooked, however. It is something that most humans do multiple times a day. It is not a choice, but an unavoidable duty in everyday life. What is interesting about this activity is that it has been so shamed by humanity that we force its occurrence into dark, stale corners of our buildings. In fact, it so embarrassing that even writing this blog post about it feels inappropriate. Society has attempted to hide it in dim, depressing rooms with no natural light, no greenery, and no view of the outdoors or any nature at all. We are being depraved of nature’s pleasure in an activity that we must undertake multiple times a day.

Using the restroom.

You cannot deny that there is a significant lack of interaction with nature and the outdoors in this chore. However, there is a glimmer of hope for biophilic restrooms. Just walk up the stairs of the Special Collections Library at UVa and head into to men’s restroom. There, in the furthest stall from the door, you will find my favorite spot to enjoy nature on grounds.

Here’s the picture.


Upon entering this stall, you can’t help but take delight at the abundance of greenery. It’s not everyday that a restroom displays beautiful vegetation in close proximity to where we do our business. The second thing that I am struck by here is the natural sunlight. Instead of the typical dim, yellow lighting that does nothing but further any sense of depression, the Special Collections Library restroom offers rich, beautiful sunlight that subconsciously (or consciously) brightens your mood. While the greenery and natural light are wonderful, this spot on Grounds would not be so incredibly unique if it did not offer something more.

Let’s get a little closer and take a look at the eye-level view.



Here, in the midst of our daily routine, one that is normally filled with blank stares at an IPhone screen or a dirty floor, we get to witness the wondrous Grounds of UVa. Nature is in full-force – vibrant green grass, budding bushes, and plenty of gorgeous trees. From this spot I have witnessed birds singing, squirrels playing, and students running late to class. It is a wonderful window into the buzzing university life.

While I cannot attest to the women’s restroom, I strongly recommend a bathroom break on the second floor of the Special Collections Library if you are a male. Enjoy!

Post by Asher Noble

UVA’s Nature Trail Shortcut

A somewhat unknown spot for nature observation lies on the steep, tree-covered hill that separates the portion of University Ave near the beach volleyball and tennis courts from the A-School. For students looking for a walk through nature or a shortcut from the library to the A-School, this brief trail is ideal.



The path starts at the bottom of the hill at the crosswalk near the parking spaces behind Alderman. The beginning of the path travels parallel to the street and has a very slight slope. During this first part of the walk, you can observe the way nature meets the sidewalk while looking out over the view. The trees are thinner and further apart in the portion between the trail and the sidewalk, so it is easy to watch the people walking and playing tennis and the cars buzzing by below. If you look a little further out, you can even see a clear view of the mountains peeking out over Mem Gym and the libraries.



The trail suddenly gets much steeper as it weaves through various types of large trees, vines, bushes, and the occasional patch of periwinkle flowers. There is a patch of orange clay that has worn away to create a very steep walkway to cut away from the main path and head upwards to the A-School. Tree branches hang over the shortcut and provide more shade.





From here to Carrs Hill Road, the trail remains steep but manageable. The trees are closer together and in the fall or spring when the trees have leaves, this area is mostly protected from the sun. The views of University Ave are limited and you are more surrounded by dense nature that you were in the first part of the trail. At the end of this hill, you emerge onto Carrs Hill Road and can look behind you to see the rows of massive trees framing the view of the mountains and filtering light through to the road. This path serves as a quick but heavy dose of nature in the middle of your daily walk around Grounds from building to building.




View from Carrs Hill Rd

Post by Audrey Hughes

The Gardens

As temperatures finally reach the 70s, my friends extend invites to eat lunch together or catch up on readings outside, particularly on the Lawn or the steps of the Amphitheater. Although I agree these spots are great places to mingle and people watch – whilst soaking in some much needed Vitamin D – I actually prefer the less-crowded and more shaded garden spaces that border TJ’s more popular and bustling Lawn.
Enclosed by artfully designed serpentine-like brick walls, these Gardens function as spaces for study, picnicking, reading and simply enjoying the flora. These small biomes are particularly beautiful during the springtime, when the tulips and flowering trees are in bloom. White benches welcome hungry readers and rectangular plots of grass draw in the occasional picnic blanket. The Gardens provide a sort of privacy, not offered on the Lawn – the tall brick walls and fair amount of tree cover form a tranquil atmosphere that is hard to find in such a central university location.
Although spring is my favorite time to enjoy the natural beauty of the Gardens, I also remember – as a first year – taking in their splendor the morning after a snow storm. My friend and I explored the untouched landscapes, entering through the Garden gates and creating the first footprints in the untouched snowcover. We threw snowballs and watched as the dogwoods glittered in the sunlight, the typically bare December landscape dazzling in its new winter coat.
The photographs I included depict a recent stroll home through the Gardens and feature the plethora of flowering plants that make the spaces that much more appealing.

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Post by Elizabeth Knipp 

Darden Courtyard

The Engineering School is one of the most under-appreciated spots around grounds. Seeing as most students do not have classes in or around Thornton Hall, many do not realize how full of nature and gorgeous it really is. In the late spring, the Engineering Way is covered with flowers and gardens that are in fact part of the stormwater collection system. However, slightly off the main way, in the middle of Thornton Hall, there is a gorgeous courtyard called the Darden Courtyard.

In the winter months, the courtyard is left mainly untouched, except to house some of the career fairs or exhibitions in early winter. However, when the weather begins to warm, the courtyard is once again full of student life.

The courtyard consists of a large lawn, surrounded by brick walls and walkways, with 4 large trees in each corner of the courtyard, and several picnic tables. As it is a sunken courtyard, most students do not walk through it as they walk to class but instead go there with a purpose. Whether it is a spot for reading, talking on the phone, or playing frisbee, the courtyard provides a haven away from the white cinderblock walls of Thornton Hall.

While this courtyard doesn’t provide breathtaking long distance views, or the stunning architecture of the lawn, it has a peaceful quality about it, as the only views are that of the grass, sky, and beautifully juxtaposed brick architecture.

If you ever want a quiet place to study, full of sunlight, and slightly hidden away, Darden Courtyard is the place to go.


Post by Genevieve Jordan

The Darkside of the Lawn

If asked what their favorite nature views at UVA are, students will most likely respond with a spring day on the lawn or a favorite view out a classroom window of the mountains off in the distance.  However, views of the stars from Grounds is very underappreciated.  UVA has many places where you can get amazing views of the night sky.  Overall, the Lawn is the most easily accessible for students and the large stretch of the Lawn lends itself to an uninterrupted view of the night sky.  The top of Observatory Hill is obviously where you will see the most stars because it is shielded from the surrounding light, but it is very difficult for students to reach.

                  The amount of stars you can see from the Lawn is obviously fewer than those you can see at the Observatory because of the light pollution from Central Grounds and the Corner (the glow of surrounding light is evident in the picture above), but you can still see far more than you could in any city.  The photo below taken by Jake Promisel, a second year Astrophysics student, is a time-lapsed photograph of the night sky above the lawn during a new moon.  Looking up into the night sky, one can truly appreciate the vastness of our universe and put everything into a whole new perspective.

                  The night-time biodiversity is not often thought about, but it is an important part of the Charlottesville ecosystem.  While looking up at the night sky, it is common to see bats and migrating birds fly overhead.  Rabbits and opposums can also be seen at night on and near the Lawn while you are laying there looking up at the sky.  Unfortunately, the night sky views and night-time biodiversity are being harmed by light pollution.  The Corner and Alderman Road dormatories are constantly spilling light into the night sky.  In order to preserve the the views and night-time biodiversity, we must change our city’s lighting to keep it contained.

Post by Kyle Mavity


Thomas Temple Allan Boathouse

One of the most beautiful natural areas at UVA is by the Thomas Temple Allan Boathouse, home to the University of Virginia Women’s and Men’s rowing teams.

Located by the Rivanna river,  on the five miles of reservior, this beautiful scenery is not only full of tough athletes but a very protected biodiversity. There are many laws on the development of the surrounding land as well as ones that limit the recreational activities allowed on the river. These rules keep the waters prestine and let the natural habitat strive.

The water is so well kept it actually acts as a source of drinking water to the Charlottesville area. This clean water attracts many animals. As shown in the above photo there are many different creatures that call the reservoir home. This includes many varieties of fish, ducks, and birds.

The river provides a full immersion with nature. With the open air blowing, the smooth water flowing, and the blissful sounds of the many animals that call this place home it creates a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the UVA grounds.

Post by Nina Vascotto, Third-Year, Civil Engineer

Nature Observations

Taken at a different time of year, as the sun began to shine more often and the snow melted aware, the Hereford/O-Hill area provided us with some excellent views. Some of those views were due to the fact that, with the land being somewhat cleared around the buildings that sit high above much of central grounds, one can see the line of mountains in the distance over the tree tops. These provide for not only scenic views, but ones filled with a different perspective on how UVA Central Grounds are situated in the greater area. Though the buildings stand high, there are plenty of places along the tree line filled with nature that provide excellent views.



Next is the view from inside Runk Hall. This view is accentuated by the fact that the Hall decided to have a glass wall that allowed those using the facility to connect with nature and the Hall’s surroundings by simply looking up from their book or plate. Natural light pours in, decreasing the amount of light needed inside the Hall and increasing the visibility of the tree-lined landscape just outside.



Lastly is the last bit of nature that exists between the structures that line Alderman road. Though this area may not last much longer as UVA builds new structures along the road farther and farther down past Scott Stadium, the university should think twice before ridding of the area between the Alderman Road Residence Area and the Gooch/Dillard Residence Area. Though it is not much of a site right now, there exists a creek that is lined with trees that can and should be transformed into a nature appreciation area, a place for students to do work outside and enjoy an area not lined with brick and concrete.


Post by Griffin Boyle

Culbreth Road – A-School

Built on a hilly area and surrounding the architecture school at the University of Virginia, it comes as now surprise that the Culbreth Road area of Charlottesville contains a number of great instances of nature views in such a condensed space. Every detail of the area has clearly been thought out, and the spaces themselves cooperate seamlessly with the natural landscape around them.

Image 1 is of the fairly recent performing arts building added to the area. The shape of the building, with its layers and wavy nature are a testament to the hilly terrain that it occupies. The curves of the structure fit seamlessly with the serpentine turns of the hill it sits on, blending them together. Additionally the architects made great efforts to incorporate the structure with nature itself, installing a garden on the top of the building.


The second photo depicts the view from the top of the performing arts building discussed earlier. It provides a view of the grassy area directly below, and, in particular, the work of natural art that is the centerpiece of the architecture school. This work is a site to see from any angle, but viewing it from above really gives a good perspective as to how the wooden forms are arranged. The view also allows an onlooker to really appreciate the scale of the project. This view stands out because it allows an observer to see almost the entire architecture school, with a 360 degree position that is essentially unmatched in height by anything other than the buildings of the architecture school itself close by.


Image 3 is of the band building just across the street from the architecture school. The bend in the grass surrounded by bricks represents a way of altering the landscape to accommodate the large band building, while simultaneously maintaining the importance of the natural environment to the area. Viewed from a nearby parking garage, the ferns planted around the edge of the construction are a nice touch, and merge perfectly with the building next to them. This is a great example of industrial build-up occurring without really tarnishing the view of the natural environment around it.


Image 4 is again a view from the top of a parking garage close to the architecture school and shows Culbreth road itself winding through the landscape. Of particular note is the variety of trees dispersed along the road. From this perspective and free of traffic, the road almost looks like a river winding along the hillside. The lack of uniformity of the trees is indicative of something that might be seen in the wild, and provides a refreshing lack of organization that ironically can be difficult to achieve even with architectural planning.


Post by Charles Gillock

Observatory Hill Area

There is actually a remarkable biophilic scene in the Observatory Hill area that mostly consists of taller, newer dining halls and dorms. The area can be viewed as a miniature city given that it is made up of 10 buildings, some five or six stories high. Given this mini-city of New Dorms (Alderman) and Ohill, there is still nature seen between each building. There consists a large open field of grass lined with small trees directly next to Ohill where students can be seen throwing the football or Frisbee, tanning, or even just studying. It is a great spot to get your daily dose of nature and fresh air. In addition to the field, there are smaller lawn areas between sidewalks interconnecting the dorms. Even the simple sight of greenery can add such a powerful effect on viewing nature when looking at these big, prominent buildings. You can see flowers and bushes in bloom on the sides of each of the dorms, not to mention a few trees.

However, this blog post focuses on some of the spectacular long-distance views you may be lucky enough to see if you are in the area.

This first photo was taken during sunrise (around 7am) from the top floor of the Lile-Maupin staircase overlooking Ohill Dining Hall with Gilmer Hall being the building in the bottom right. The truly amazing sight, as you can tell, is the sunrise over the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. If you manage to get that view, you’re off to a great start of the day! Also, during the day, you can usually see the top of the Rotunda.



The next two photos were taken during sunset (around 6:30pm) between the dorms Tuttle-Dunnington and Lile-Maupin. It’s as easy as walking in between them towards Watson-Webb and Balz-Dobie. You have to get lucky with the sun and clouds, though!

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Map of the Ohill/New Dorm Area with sunrise/sunset views marked in black, the area in which the photos were taken in red, and the grass field in green:



You may be thinking to yourself, “Well you can see pretty sunrises and sunsets almost anywhere.” However, it’s the idea of the combination of the completely natural sight of the sky overtop one of the most city-like areas on Grounds at UVa that makes this area stand out. The Ohill/New Dorm area is truly a miniature biophilic city of it’s own. Sky views play a major role in feeling nature, and the company, Sky Factory, reveals the importance of sky views by creating virtual views for inside city buildings.  They play a role in making a city a biophilic city.

Post by Cole Oldenburg, First-Year, Engineering-Undeclared