Profiled in UVA Today, School of Architecture 4th year undergraduate Andrew Ashcraft talks about his experiences at UVA with historic architecture.
As a child, Andrew Ashcraft loved crawling through the two old houses his family lived in.
One was a farmhouse made of hand-hewn sandstone rocks quarried in Ritchie County, West Virginia, where Ashcraft, the oldest of three brothers, grew up. The other was built in the 1860s by a major in the Union Army who returned to West Virginia after the Civil War.
“I would crawl up in the attics and explore,” said Ashcraft, now a fourth-year student in the University of Virginia School of Architecture. “I learned a lot about how buildings come together, but I also fell in love with architecture, particularly historic architecture.”
By the time he finished high school, Ashcraft knew he wanted to be an architect. He toured Virginia Tech first and felt pretty sure he would end up there.
Then, he saw the Lawn.
“Honestly, I was worried UVA might be too pretentious for me and that I wouldn’t fit in here,” he said. “But once I got to see the Lawn and tour some of the buildings, I knew this was where I needed to be.”
Four years later, Ashcraft has found his niche at UVA and left his mark on the buildings that captivated him that day, both through his architecture courses and his internship with UVA’s Historic Preservation team, a division of Facilities Management.
As an intern, Ashcraft is charged with documenting the artifacts and fragments recovered in various projects around Grounds. Some of them, like the column fragments shown above, are now in storage and need to be labeled with as much historical information as possible.
In addition to cataloguing new finds, Ashcraft has worked with Facilities Management’s historical preservation team on a huge variety of renovation projects around Grounds, from the attic of Carr’s Hill to the roof of Memorial Gymnasium.
He even got to contribute to some designs, such as the ceilings beneath the six suspended Pavilion balconies shown here and the new elevated deck on the porch of Pavilion VI, home to School of Architecture Dean Ila Berman.
His favorite view so far has been from the attic of Old Cabell Hall, where he could look down through an ornate false skylight into the building’s grand two-tiered theater.
“I was in the attic, looking down at the stage, and thought, ‘How many people get to see the stage from this view?’” Ashcraft said. “That has been a recurring theme in my work with Facilities.”
According to architecture professor and Vice Provost for Academic Outreach Louis Nelson, Ashcraft’s unique vantage point has been very valuable in class.
Nelson, who taught Ashcraft in three courses, recalled one instance when his class was studying Brown College on Monroe Hill. Ashcraft insisted that the professor accompany him to the crawlspace underneath the building to see some of the work Facilities Management was doing.
“He was exactly right to take me down there, because it completely changed how we understand the building,” Nelson said. “Andrew has an eye for understanding how secreted away, unassuming spaces can transform the way we understand iconic, formal architecture.”