Karsh Institute of Democracy at the University of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA
Architecture (new construction)
Auditorium, Classrooms, Research, Cafe, Student Commons
69,320 sf
Höweler + Yoon Architecture, Eric Höweler, J. Meejin Yoon, Bernard Peng, Jacob Bruce, Caroline Shannon, Kevin Lee, Estelle Yoon, Byungchan Ahn, Ellen Wood, Chris Behling, Lyric Barnik, Matthew Hayes, Kaitlynn Long, Rayshad Dorsey, Weichen Wang

The Karsh Institute of Democracy is envisioned as a vibrant, continually active place where faculty, students, staff, community members, public figures, and visitors convene for civil discourse and scholarship around democracy. Situated within the Ivy Corridor, the building’s elevated position above a designed stream corridor and outdoor gathering spaces will make it the western visual terminus for this new redevelopment site on the University of Virginia Grounds.

The new building will be home to the Karsh Institute of Democracy, an institute that will coalesce and augment work of several schools and centers already dedicated to the study of democracy at UVA. It will also be the new facilities for UVA’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, ensuring cross-pollination of ideas and initiatives.

The eastern façade features a subtle curve that both signals the main entrance and acts as a beacon to the rest of the site. The building is anchored by large, carved cornerstones that visually ground the building and share in the curve of the façade. The upper third of each façade features panels spaced at a regular rhythm. 


The landscape comprises a broad paved promenade, a tree-lined central green, and integrated building entrance. Exterior materials, such as brick, reference the architectural history of the University while developing a new visual language for the Institute. The columnar precast facade frames the warm cherry wood drum that clads a state-of-the-art auditorium, a centerpiece of the facility.