University of Virginia, Memorial to Enslaved Laborers

Charlottesville, VA
Key Elements
  • Public art project to memorialize enslaved laborers at UVA
  • Complex drainage, water, and sewer infrastructure
  • Close coordination with project team

The Memorial to Enslaved Laborers, which honors the lives of approximately 4,000 enslaved people who lived and worked at UVA between 1817 and 1865, was the result of a collaborative design effort including students from the University of Virginia, members of the community, and descendants of the enslaved laborers. The 80-foot-diameter circular memorial features a water table that showcases a timeline honoring the enslaved people at UVA, a memorial wall, and a portrait of Isabella Gibbons, a formerly enslaved person who later taught. The memorial is located east of the rotunda in the valley on the east side of the Lawn.

Nitsch provided civil engineering services to enable the development of the memorial structure and surrounding gathering space, and two-acre landscape design. The project required close collaboration with the project architect and designer to design the complex systems of drainage, water, and sewage infrastructure.

“This memorial has the responsibility to acknowledge history, to honor the lives of the enslaved, and bring them the dignity and humanity that was taken away from them by the dehumanizing act of slavery, but also to be a space that acknowledges that the work of addressing the issues of race in America is not finished.”

Meejin Yoon, Principal of Höweler + Yoon, to Architectural Digest

Key Collaborators

Owner: University of Virginia
Architect: Höweler + Yoon Architecture
Landscape Architect: Gregg Bleam Landscape Architect