Monticello and the University of Virginia: Serene Architectonic Bliss by Jefferson

Name: Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville (United States of America).
Location: in the state of Virginia, in the city of Charlottesville (Eastern Coast).
Area: 28 acres.

The Rotunda in the University of Virginia




Without any doubt, both the Monticello university and mansion, in Charlottesville, are associated inseparably with the figure of former American president Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826,) better known for his political career rather than for his work as a writer and architect. The citizens of the United States of America owe the Independence Declaration of the United States of 1776 to this man, as well as the Slave Trade Act in 1800.

Monticello is the name of the lands that the former president would later inherit from his father, at the age of 14. A rustic neoclassical town, typical of Virginia in the 18th century, finished in 1809, which possess Palladio's influences. Later, the university was built, between 1814 and 1825, which illustrates the architecture from "The Lights Century", offering a great educational program designed and carried out by Jefferson. Anyways, the overlapping of the quiet surroundings with the classical lines of the mansion and the university campus conjugate a strange symphony, in a way that gives both buildings a powerful sense of unity and identity.


The conservation of the place is carried out by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and the federal government, the latter one is responsible for the administration of the school.

A House and A Man: A Life

Initiated in 1769 the construction of Monticello, is suddenly interrupted from 1784 to 1789 due to its owner's travel to France. The mansion, surrounded by wide meadowlands with strong and old trees, is subjected to a very personal concept of the architect, Jefferson himself, influenced by different sources. This way, the Palladio's lines appear in the perfect proportions of the pediment and the portico with its classical columns. The material used is the brick and in the pediment there's no relief, but a semicircular-shaped window, most characteristic contribution from the neoclassicism rather than from the Italians or the Greeks. In fact, the organization of the space and the distribution in 3 levels, hardly emphasized because of the elevation of a small staircase, are perfectly subjected to the conception of French Neoclassicism. The western facade is dominated by the octagonal dome, also French style. The lateral wings present large elongated terraces closed by balustrades. The building denotes the serenity bliss, however it is far more grandiloquent than the typical buildings from the South.

The third man who occupies the White House was born in 1743 in a privileged family of powerful landowners, with plantations of cotton in the South. The young Jefferson, lawyer in 1767, keeps up to date what's happening in the Old Continent. The ideas he read from Encyclopedeans, influenced him in a big way, so that a few years later he redacted the Declaration of Independence against Britain, on July 4, 1776, even before the outbreak of the French Revolution. In this Declaration, three basic human rights are established: right to life, to freedom and to happiness. Meanwhile, Monticello continues to expand, except in the period when the charge of ambassador of the new country was being developed in France. In 1789, he became Secretary of State in Washington. A bit later, president of the country and gave the famous shout out with incalculable consequences of: "Let's win the West!" Finally, in 1809 he retires from political life and stays in Monticello, where he starts to dedicate his time to his great passions in his youth: architecture and theoretical reflection. Jefferson died in Monticello in 1826, at the age of 83.

The Serenity of a Replica

The construction of the university of Virginia is the last ambition and the last architectonic dream (and nearly human too) from Jefferson who, personally takes the initiative for its erection. Built between 1814 and 1835, the entire campus, of about 28 acres, emerges from very well raised meadows with large trees, some of them centenarian. The surroundings are extremely peaceful and balanced, the perfect environment for learning and teaching.

One element that excels from the rest is the large distance for any attempt of looking like the European universities, baroque and centralized.

The library leads the central avenue, the spheric building inspired in the Roman pantheon of Agrippa. It's called the Rotunda, with its portico made of 6 classical columns, completed by a naked pediment which precedes the house, covered by a huge dome, without overhangs or anything close. The so-called Madison Hall is situated in front of a large esplanade ornamented with hedges and where ceremonies take place. Ten buildings, which served as host for the professors of the initial 10 academic disciplines, flank this avenue. These buildings, united by a series of porticos, have a very similar interior distribution, but their exterior facades differ significantly, showing a wide catalog of the North American Classicism which would prevail during the 19th century.

This vast space is dominated by a huge arcade that, supported by pillars, covers one of the wings of the Lambeth Sports Field. Here, the St. Paul Episcopal church. Further, the Newcomb Hall, with its 4 big chimneys. Brick and white paint, porticos, pediments, terraces, domes and Doric columns are the elements that Jefferson combines with wised harmony. Jefferson, a man who signed with bricks and squadron, like he did before with a pen and paper, his dreams in a free and happy world.

Source: Wikipedia

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