William & Mary’s beloved Sir Christopher Wren Building was honored this week by the Virginia Center for Architecture and the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects.
The Wren Building ranked 20th in their poll of "Virginia's Favorite Architecture" and will be featured in an exhibition highlighting each of the 100 structures identified in the survey. The exhibit opens on April 10 at the Virginia Center for Architecture and runs through Oct. 19.
More than 30,000 respondents weighed-in on the online poll and selected structures spanning a variety of architectural styles, types and periods. The structures were nominated by architects to represent Virginia’s rich architectural heritage. Visitors to vacelebrates.org were invited to choose their favorites from among 250 buildings, bridges, monuments and memorials.
The Virginia Center for Architecture noted in a press release that respondents “chose buildings that evoke powerful emotions and memories as their favorites.”
The Wren Building is the oldest college building in the United States and the oldest of the restored public buildings in Williamsburg. It was constructed between 1695 and 1700. Not only does the building still stand today, it continues to be used actively in the life of the College. The academic year begins and ends at the Wren, which hosts Opening Convocation and serves as the starting point for the Senior Walk across campus prior to Commencement.
“Buildings that hold sentimental value for us are just as meaningful as those that are considered to hold great architectural or historical significance,” said Virginia Center for Architecture Executive Director Helene Combs Dreiling.
The Wren has a storied history. The building has been gutted by fire three times — in 1705, 1859 and 1862. In its early history, the Wren Building served as the temporary headquarters of the government while the new Colonial capitol was being completed in Williamsburg, and in the Civil War, the building was used as a hospital during the Union occupation of the city.
Virginia's universities were popular choices in the survey. Sweet Briar College’s Sweet Briar House, c. 1790, placed first in the poll. The University of Virginia’s Academical Village (1822) and Virginia Tech’s Burruss Hall (1936), LUMENHAUS Center for Design Research (2009), War Memorial Chapel (1960) and Moss Center for the arts (2013) also placed among the top 10. One of the buildings recognized has not even been built yet -- Virginia Commonwealth University’s Institute for Contemporary Art.
The "Virginia’s Favorite Architecture" exhibition is part of a year-long observance called Virginia Celebrates Architecture recognizing the 100th anniversary of the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects.