The University of Virginia in the US has broken ground on the Contemplative Commons building located near the Dell on Emmet Street.

Planned to open in 2023, the 57,000ft² Contemplative Commons will comprise flexible learning studios that can be configured for academic classes, quiet reflection, social interaction or physical activity.

It will also comprise new outdoor spaces including a tree-lined courtyard, contemplative gardens and a new green pedestrian bridge across Emmet Street.

To design the project as a multipurpose complex, UVA said its Contemplative Sciences Center worked with the Office of the University Architect, as well as Aidlin Darling Design, VMDO and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects.

During the day, the building is intended to primarily house academic activities. On evenings and weekends, the facility will host extracurricular events, social gatherings and local community engagements.

UVA president Jim Ryan said: “The Contemplative Commons will also be a place that showcases innovations in teaching and learning.

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“It will support experiential and engaged learning with spaces for movement, contemplation and connection.

“It will go beyond the traditional lecture hall to include hands-on learning with peers, including interconnected indoor-outdoor spaces that bring nature to the classroom and the classroom to nature.”

Financed by a $40m lead gift from Paul and Sonia Jones, the Contemplative Commons is also backed by gifts from Walker, additional members of the Contemplative Sciences Center’s Advisory Board and other donors.

According to the university, the Commons will expand on the work being carried out by UVA’s Contemplative Sciences Center.