New Data Science Center Coming to UVA

By Eric Althoff

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.—The University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson, is taking yet another step into the future thanks to its 21st century School of Data Science. The new educational building broke ground this fall, with a projected opening for early in 2024.

In late October, dignitaries of the University of Virginia were on hand for a groundbreaking ceremony, and turned over the token first shovelfuls of dirt for the 14-acre plot that will one day host the data science center. The 60,000-square-foot project also entails a new performing arts center and other educational buildings.

Across four stories of educational space at the data center, students will learn about technology with state-of-the-art “active learning” classrooms, where they will converse and learn about “big data,” which has become ever more important across all disciplines. Data science utilizes scientific methods, algorithms and other techniques of inquiry to glean information from the large picture big data has to offer.

Other areas that needed to be constructed included faculty areas and meeting and research spaces. The new building will also have “porches” that extend out over a pond adjacent to the data center, which will allow students to congregate outdoors as the weather allows.

Further work entails constructing a new hotel adjacent to the school building, a parking garage as well as a conference center on the plot of land, which is dubbed the Emmet-Ivy parcel.

The design team for the project entails architectural firm VMDO, the executive architect and architect of record, design architect Hopkins and ​​general contractor Gilbane Building Company. According to the university, Merrill and Jaffary Woodriff of Charlottesville’s Quantitative Foundation donated $120 million to the new school, making it the largest such gift in the school’s history. The data center requires $33 million of that sum for its construction.

“From an academic perspective, there is an explosive interest in Data Science courses at UVA; it is predicted that the majority of students will take at least one data science course during their time at UVA,” Lauren Shirley, an associate with VMDO Architects, said in a statement emailed to School Construction News. “Currently the School is operating out of a very small space and they are growing rapidly. This new building will provide much-needed teaching, research, and office space for the School, as well as providing a home for Data Science students, and a representation of the School’s identity.”

Continued Shirley: “This building will also set an architectural precedent for the school’s new Emmet-Ivy Corridor. This building’s design strikes the right balance of current and contextual, something that was important to all involved. It is modern in its lightness and transparency, minimal in its detailing and structural expression, while still fitting in with its more classical campus context.”