History

Casa Maderni (CESA), Riva San Vitale, Swiltzerland; European Studies; students in library

Students studying in a library.

In the 1980s, students from the College of Architecture and Urban Studies would travel to Basel, Switzerland during the summer to study European architecture. As the program grew, it became more challenging to find adequate and economical housing for students.

Dr. Charles Steger, then dean of the college, desired a permanent home for the program, but when the university was prohibited from owning property in Switzerland it turned to the Virginia Tech Foundation, which purchased the more than 250-year old villa in 1992 and the property was extensively renovated to become a living and learning space for Virginia Tech students.

One-minute reminiscence: Lucy Ferrari recalls the years before Virginia Tech's ownership of Villa Maderni

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The Foundation completed another significant renovation and expansion project in 2014 which included the construction of a two-story addition providing multipurpose and dining space, sub-dividable classroom space, and support space. The renovation also extended to the existing kitchen and the stables wing to provide an architectural teaching studio, as well as a shop and creative space. The addition and renovation improved the academic and residential experience at the center by allowing for more programmatic flexibility and for the concurrent delivery of a variety of program offerings in the future.

Formerly known as the Center for European Studies and Architecture, the Steger Center was renamed in 2014 to honor former university president Charles W. Steger in tribute to his vision of broadening the university’s global presence. The programs have expanded beyond the study of architecture to extend the opportunity for all Virginia Tech students to spend a semester abroad.

In addition to Steger’s desire to create a study abroad campus for VT’s students, Lucy and Olivio Ferrari also participated in the creation of this beautiful campus. Professor Olivio Ferrari served as the founding director of the Center until 1994, and was succeeded by his wife Lucy Ferrari, who served as director from 1994 until her retirement in 1997. Mrs. Ferrari also offered over 5,000 books to the Steger Center for the construction of a library which bears her name for students and faculty to enjoy while in Riva San Vitale.