The Rotunda, once again a student hub

Students reflect on first open semester of U.Va. staple since 2014

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Originally designed by Thomas Jefferson in 1821, the Rotunda has always been the hub of the University. In its lifetime, it has undergone a number of transformations, much like the University it calls home.

Most recently, the Rotunda underwent a four-year renovation — for two of which it was closed to the public — to fix some of the more dilapidated portions of the structure. The latest project was finished this year, just in time for the Class of 2020’s entrance to the University.

The Rotunda still functions as a library open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. —just as it was originally intended to — and offers free historical tours three times a day.

“There’s been a really positive reception to the reopening,” Oliver Lopez-Gomez, fourth-year College student and Rotunda employee, said. “Students like being able to come and study here … [and] people like to plan events here too, so just trying to balance those two conflicting needs can be tough.”

Despite frequent tours, the Rotunda serves as a valuable study space, first-year College student Maya Lezzam said.

“Occasionally you’ll find people coming in and out, but it’s small, it’s quaint [and] you can get a lot done in there,” Lezzam said. “[From] my experience, my studying has never been interrupted by tour groups, but I’m sure that does happen sometimes.”

Because tour sessions start at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., a great deal of students are in class or are engaged in other activities. However, the frequency of the tours and the limited hours of the library do deter some students from using the Rotunda as a study space.

“There are closer places to go that are more convenient to me,” first-year College student Caitlin Dozier said. “A lot of the libraries are open for a longer time than the Rotunda is and they don’t have such strict schedules. I know with the Rotunda there are only certain times when it’s open-study and the libraries aren’t really like that, so I can pretty much stay for as long as I’d like without having to relocate.”

The rather limited space in the library is split into fewer study spaces than most other libraries on Grounds. Coupled with fewer open hours than most libraries offer, these factors often shift students away from large groups and towards coming by themselves.

“Individual students mostly [come in to study],” Lopez-Gomez said.

With the return of the Rotunda, it can operate as a center of activity for events such as Convocation, Rotunda Sing, Lighting of the Lawn, Rotunda dinners, Board of Visitors meetings and graduation.

“I’m fine with going to a library that may not be updated most recently because it still serves its purpose, but the Rotunda is central to what U.Va. is and that makes it more important to keep in good shape,” Dozier said. “The Rotunda has been here since the school started basically, so why not make the most original parts look the best?”

In its first semester open to students since spring of 2014, the restored Rotunda has not only once again provided a space for some of the University’s most hallowed traditions, but has also returned as a reminder of both the school’s complex history and renowned beauty.

“All the history is visible when you look at the walls and the ceiling,” Lazzam said. “It’s just a beautiful place to be.”

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