Somewhere Thomas Jefferson is smiling.

His beloved Monticello has received countless tributes over the last 237 years. The latest comes just five miles away in downtown Charlottesville, Va.

Welcome to the award-winning Lark on Main, a six-story, 211,000-square-foot mixed-use student housing community within eyesight of Jefferson’s famed architectural icon. On the Lark’s northwest corner, a four-story architectural parapet points to Monticello on the horizon.

Monticello Pull

The 162-unit, 342-bed structure is the first of what has become a growing community of private student housing near the neighboring University of Virginia campus. The amenity-rich Lark also includes 7,100 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

“The building really tugs itself towards Monticello,” says Scott Erdy, FAIA, principal of Philadelphia-based Erdy McHenry Architecture and the project architect. The referential design also honors another local landmark with its geometry and massing: The L-shaped building wraps itself around the neighboring Patton Mansion, a 114-year-old Jefferson Revival Style brick home. To give the mansion room to breathe, the Lark’s primary mass is recessed, in deference to its historic neighbor. To minimize scale, the designers staggered the balconies.

Continuity of Materiality

The design emphasizes brick. “Charlottesville is a brick town. Monticello and the Patton Mansion are brick structures. We extend that continuity of materiality with a brick look on the Lark’s most important areas.”

Start with the boldly cantilevered “Monticello Corner.” Rather than mimic the red brick façade of the surrounding historic buildings, the Erdy McHenry design team used grey thin brick in alternating thicknesses in a vertically stacked pattern. The dimensional effect creates shadow lines across the curving symmetry. In total, Lark On Main features 24,000 square feet of thin brick façade.

“We didn’t run away from the idea this is thin brick. We ran to it. The unconventional application offers a more emphatic articulation because it’s not load-bearing,” explains Erdy.

Larger NOI

Thin brick also supports the owner’s pro forma. The density required to meet the net operating income (NOI) goals is served by the increase in rentable space created by thin brick’s slender depth. “Calculate the total feet of perimeter and the savings of two and half inches across six floors. At the per-square-foot cost, you can see the cost of geometry, not even including material and labor savings, is significant.” Thin brick’s aesthetic quality combined with owner-friendly value equals a superior cladding investment.

The selection of thin brick also presented other advantages, including:

  • Economy. Erdy says the architects had explored a terra cotta façade but quickly ruled it out because of costs. “Thin brick is closer to tile,” notes Erdy. Lintels aren’t required for façade breaks, another savings.
  • LEED. Thin brick requires a fraction of the production and transportation energy costs associated with standard full-sized brick.

“I’m a student of architectural history,” observes Erdy. “Look at the Roman Colosseum. It is clad in travertine. Even the Romans couldn’t afford to build with full travertine block. We’re doing what the Romans did. Don’t shy away from thin brick slimness and make it look like regular brick. Make it work to your advantage.”

Learn more about how thin brick can benefit your next project.

Brick Manufacturer: Endicott Clay Products CompanyBrick Distributors: Endicott Clay Products Company, TABS Wall Systems, Skyline Brick
TABS Installer: Pro-Qual, LLC
Architect: Erdy McHenry Architecture