The manor house built by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) in the 1820s and the University of Virginia founded by the former US President as an academic village are not only outstanding examples of neoclassical architecture, they also reflect the spirit of one of the Ideas of the Enlightenment and independence guided personality.
Monticello and University of Virginia: Facts
|Official title:||Monticello and University of Virginia at Charlottesville|
|Cultural monument:||Manor house of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) and the University of Virginia, which he donated as an academic village with a U-shaped grouping of buildings, pavilions I to X; ten “schools” with classrooms and apartments for the academic staff; Model for the design are the classic designs by Palladio, Fréart de Chambray and Charles Errard, including Pavilion VIII, now owned by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation|
|Continent:||North America; See collegesanduniversitiesinusa|
|Meaning:||an amalgamation of functionalism and symbolism; outstanding example of the architecture of classicism|
Monticello and University of Virginia: History
|1763-74||Tax legislation leads to dispute between England and its North American colonies|
|July 4, 1776||Declaration of Independence of the English Colonies of North America; Jefferson as lead member of Congress in drafting this statement|
|November 30, 1782||Signing of the Anglo-American treaty to end the war between the renegade colonies and England|
|November 25, 1783||British troops leave New York after the treaties of Paris have been signed (September 3rd)|
|1784-1809||Design, construction and remodeling of Monticello|
|1791||Ratification of the Bill of Rights|
|1801-09||Jefferson President of the United States|
|1819||University of Virginia foundation and design of campus with central rotunda|
Architectural essay and academic village
Even if it sounds strange: The way Monticello shows itself to the visitor today, it actually never existed. Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence of the American Colonies and third President of the United States of America, spent his life building his “dream home”. He called his “architectural essay” the house on Monticello with which he wanted to realize himself and his idea of an ideal life. Unlike his contemporaries, he did not have it built down by the river – there boats could have picked up the harvest from his plantation – but as a hermitage on a hill. While few visitors climbed the Monticello during Jefferson’s lifetime, today they come in droves.
Contemporaries of the American President saw a property that was in parts still unfinished, while other parts of the building were already falling into disrepair. “Life as a construction site” was the credo of Thomas Jefferson, who counted one of the greatest achievements of his life not so much with his presidency but with founding the University of Virginia, not to mention the innovations he introduced in horticulture – including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe did not consider “Faust” but the theory of colors to be his most important work.
“Thomas Jefferson’s seat (…) is in Albermarle County, Virginia. The house stands on a conical mountain from which an elliptical plateau was cut as a building site. On its north side it has a commanding view over the town of Charlottesville, the River Rivanna and over the Blue Ridge Mountains to even more distant peaks. Although started 27 years ago, it is still unfinished because Mr. Jefferson is constantly changing his plans. ”This is how Anna Maria Thornton saw Monticello in 1802. What awaits today’s visitor, coming up from Charlottesville, is the white dome on a brick rotunda is a mixture of the construction stages of 1809, when the house was still unfinished but in good condition, and the completion and the beginning of decay after 1827.
Thanks to his open-mindedness and astonishingly well-readiness, Jefferson succeeded in creating a remarkable design with Monticello, which still gives an idea that the ideas of the “master of classicism”, Andrea Palladio, who was born in Padua, should not have been alien to him when designing the building. In fact, the American president had come across the “Four Books on Architecture” by this Italian architect, published in Venice in 1570, at an early age. From him he took over the rules of proportionality and the “ideal forms” of the circle and square. In expanding these basic forms of building, Jefferson introduced the octagon as an element of his home. Its floor plan plays with half and whole octagons, which it adds to a pleasant whole,
With the University of Virginia, founded in Charlottesville, Jefferson realized the vision of the academic village where students and professors should live and learn together. The division of the academic community by rank was just as foreign here as that of science by discipline. On the main building, vaulted by a dome, in which the lectures took place, two long, flat rows of buildings were added to the top of the “little mountain”. While the outbuildings with pantries, kitchens and workshops were housed there on Jefferson’s estate, they served as shared living quarters for students and professors down in the valley. In the spirit of Jefferson, professors received their students for seminars in their living rooms.