Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), author of the American Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States, was also a talented architect of neoclassical buildings. He designed Monticello (1769–1809), his plantation home, and his ideal 'academical village' (1817–26), which is still the heart of the University of Virginia. Jefferson's use of an architectural vocabulary based upon classical antiquity symbolizes both the aspirations of the new American republic as the inheritor of European tradition and the cultural experimentation that could be expected as the country matured.
Statement of Significance
Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) was a talented architect of neo-classical buildings, as well as author of the American Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States. He designed Monticello (1769–1809), his plantation home, and his ideal 'academical village' (1817–26), a few miles away, which is still the heart of the University of Virginia. Jefferson's use of an architectural vocabulary based upon classical antiquity symbolizes both the aspirations of the new American republic as the inheritor of European tradition and the cultural experimentation that could be expected as the country matured. Monticello also shows that Jefferson was conscious of the relationship between architecture and the natural landscape.
(i) Both Monticello and the University of Virginia reflect Jefferson’s wide reading of classical and later works on architecture and design and also his careful study of the architecture of late 18th century Europe. As such they illustrate his wide diversity of interests.
(iv) With these buildings Thomas Jefferson made a significant contribution to neo-classicism, the 18th century movement that adapted the forms and details of classical architecture to contemporary buildings.
(vi) Monticello and the key buildings of the University of Virginia are directly and materially associated with the ideas and ideals of Thomas Jefferson. Both the university buildings and Monticello were directly inspired by principles, derived from his deep knowledge of classical architecture and philosophy.
Monticello and the University of Virginia are directly and materially associated with the ideals of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), better known for his political career, the brilliance of which overshadowed his reputation as a writer and architect. These works of perfection, where the difficult passage from Utopia to reality is harmoniously achieved, are directly inspired by the very same principles which led to Jefferson's Declaration of Independence (1776) and his project for the abolition of slavery (1800).
The integration of the buildings into the natural landscape, the originality of the plan and design, and the refined proportions and decor make Monticello an outstanding example of a neoclassical work of art, while the University of Virginia is an outstanding example of a great educational institution from the Age of Enlightenment.
The two major works of Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville are Monticello and the University of Virginia. Monticello (1769-1809) is a perfect example of a neoclassical villa rustica, based on a Roman design, revised by Palladio and amended by the Physiocrats. The University of Virginia is a fine example of the architectural ideal of the Age of Enlightenment put to use in the great educational programme of the third President of the United States.
Construction of Monticello began in 1769. The very personal conception of the house clearly shows the various influences experienced by its designer: that of Palladio, evidencing in the perfect proportions of the pedimented porticos, and that of the contemporary neoclassical architecture. The interior spatial organization and the low elevation were borrowed from contemporary Parisian town house design. The western facade is dominated by an octagonal dome. Only the harmonious volume of the villa emerges from the foliage of the park where, towards the end of his life, Jefferson planted orchards, vegetable and flower gardens.
Jefferson's most ambitious and last architectural undertaking was the construction of the University of Virginia. Elaborating this project, which is based on educational ideals that are both encyclopaedic and democratic, he departed from pre-existing British or American college planning schemes. The rational layout of this 'academic village' is inspired both by the principles of hygiene laid down by the hospital builders and by a symbolic architecture expressed by the hierarchy of volumes and the repertory of forms.
A half-scale copy of the Pantheon in Rome, which houses the library, dominates the academic village. The 10 pavilions housing the professors of the 10 schools that make up the university are deliberately based on a distinctive design and are intended to serve as an encyclopaedia of classical and neoclassical architectural designs. However, the connecting colonnades serve to give a feeling of unity to this space. The later construction of a building at the south end has unnecessarily transformed this triumphal way into an enclosed space. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC