Remembrance Garden set for summer construction

Architecture student designs space for U.Va. community to mourn, process grief


The garden will be located between Clemons Library and Newcomb Hall. 

Richard Dizon and Richard Dizon | Cavalier Daily

The Student Council’s Buildings and Grounds Committee received funding this past December to construct a Student Remembrance Garden between Clemons Library, Newcomb Hall and the Special Collections Library. The garden is meant to be a space to commemorate the lives of students who have died while attending the University.

Fourth-year Architecture student Daniel McGovern has been working on this project since his first year and served as the chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee. The garden’s main attraction will be a large Remembrance Wall in the middle of the space where students will be able to leave messages in chalk.

“It is designed to be interactive so that people can … leave little messages on a wall because there are things that come along with the process of grieving that you have to plan for; it’s not just an empty space it has to be a little more than that,” McGovern said.

The Remembrance Garden is devoted to no particular individual who has passed away, but rather serves as a communal area where individuals can grieve in their own way. While the amphitheater and other larger spaces have been used to mourn as a community, McGovern said the University lacks a more personal space.

“You also need places where you can go to be by yourself and to reflect and to remember and that requires a much different kind of space,” McGovern said. “You need to feel comforted and secure and safe and for that reason you need something small and more intimate and that’s not something we have on Grounds.”

Though the project first began in a 2004 Architecture course taught by Architecture Lecturer Nancy Takahashi, it has been periodically forgotten and re-started over the past 13 years. In December, however, the Committee received a $700,000 grant from the University to fund construction of the garden.

McGovern says the location of the space and the personalization of the objects make it an expensive project.

“I know it sounds like a lot, basically … construction is expensive and it’s a lot more expensive than people think it is,” McGovern said. “And in the grand scheme of things this project is miniscule in comparison to the things the school normally deals with.”

After the death of student Hannah Graham, the University community constructed a temporary memorial where people could mourn, but Grounds still lacks a physical space for mourning.

“Part of the backing of this whole project is kind of a resilience space,” McGovern said. “You hope you don’t have to use it, but at least when bad things do happen we don’t have to be scrambling to put things together,” McGovern said.

Graduate Architecture student Caroline Herre has also worked on the project for three years. She said a space where people can gather both formally and informally to remember the lives of their classmates who they have lost is greatly needed on Grounds.

“I think having the space will be a very positive addition to U.Va.,” Herre said. “That was always our goal — to provide support and just anything we could do to help students who have lost a friend or a family member or anything that’s gone on in their lives [and allow them] to take a deep breath and have a place that isn’t so high stress,” Herre said.

Herre lost two friends while she was an undergraduate student at the University and says that her fond memories of them have kept her motivated to push the project forward.

“I don’t think I would have really jumped on the project if I hadn’t experienced a personal side of it,” Herre said. “I think through those experiences I learned about how people deal with grief and that they deal with grief in a lot of different ways and I saw this as a way that I could give back to the University and leave something behind that wasn’t there when I came.”

The original design for the garden comes from Architecture students, though the ideas have been altered and re-done over the last decade. Through the design process, over 200 students and community members were polled. The construction of the project should be completed by the end of the summer and the garden should be a fully functioning space by next fall. 

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