A portion of my 2010 summer break was spent working at the University of Virginia. Originally, I was scheduled to start an internship with Connecticut-based John Canning Painting & Conservation Studios at the University starting mid-June; however, true to typical construction projects (in my limited experience), this was pushed back several weeks. While I waited for this internship to start, I was given the opportunity to work with the Facilities team at UVa repairing and prepping dorm rooms for the fall semester incoming honor students.
The honor dorm rooms are located off the east and west sides of the Lawn, a large field in the middle of was is known as the Academical Village. Each suite of dorms is connected to a Pavilion, a residence for a tenured professor where he/she invites students for lectures, discussion or dinner. The honor student must apply for the dorm room, submit an essay, be actively involved with the University and community and be of high academic standing. Only one of every 20 applicants is accepted to reside in the dorms, so it is an honor to live in these tiny rooms without bathroom facilities. One must use a community bathroom located in a separate building to shower and use the bathroom.
Much of the work completed during this two week stretch of time was cosmetic. I had a hard time accepting the team’s use of sheetrock mud skimmed over the original plasterwork. This just did not make much sense to a plaster student who has been taught to be a “purest” when it comes to plaster. I found out weeks afterward that this method is widely used; however, hydraulic lime is normally added to the mud to give it a more plaster-like look, feel and durability. My role in the cosmetic work was to repair large holes and loose plaster within the rooms and repair the fireplace surrounds which were made of plaster. This work was rather straight forward.
An observation I found troubling was the apparent lack of use of the original picture railing in each of these rooms. We were skim coating these rooms and repairing blemishes caused by students hammering, drilling and prodding walls with all types of hanging devises. If the use of the picture rails was enforced, the Facilities team could prolong this work by many years, saving the University a lot of money.