Architecture Around the World

University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia




Thomas Jefferson


Roman Neoclassicism / Classical Revival / Jeffersonian Neoclassical

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Also designed by Jefferson:


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TEXT Beneath Illustrations

Click on illustrations for larger size -- and additional information

The Rotunda was modeled after the Pantheon, a second-century temple in Rome

Rotunda - Dome and portico

View of the Lawn from the Rotunda. Note Corinthian columns.

Rotunda at left

Colonnade between Pavilions


Detail from previous photo.
Tracery in window ..... Roman Tuscan columns


Detail from previous photo - Pediment ..... Corinthian columns


Detail from previous photo - Pediment


Detail from previous photo - Balustrade

Modillions supporting cornice


Detail from previous photo. Arcade

Triglyphs ..... Tuscan columns ..... Balustrade



Corinthian columns. ..... Balustrade



Inside portico: dentil molding


Pavilion II

Traceried window in tympanum


Image of Apollo in metopes

Pedimented entrance and 12 over 12 window

Pedimented entrance with dentils


Excerpted from
The Elements of Style: An Practical Encyclopedia of Interior Architectural Details from 1485 to the Present,
By Stephen Calloway and Elizabeth Cromley, ed.
NY: Simon & Schuster, 1991, p. 531

Thomas Jefferson

American lawyer, statesman (President 1801-9) and architect.

The author of the Declaration of Independence, he was also an influential architect (self-taught), introducing to the United States a robust Neo-classicism based on ancient Roman architecture and contemporary French Rationalism, which contrasted with the lighter Federal Style.

For his own house, Monticello,Virginia (from 1770), he first designed an essentially Palladian building, but later additions transformed it into a largely single-storey classical villa in brick, with a pedimented garden portico and shallow dome.

For the Virginia State Capitol, Richmond (1785-99), his design was derived from the ancient Roman Maison Carrée in Nimes, to which he was introduced while in Paris as American Ambassador (1784-9). The Capitol was the brst building in the United States designed in the form of a classical temple and was an important model for American public architecture of the period.

Jefferson also influenced the planning of Washington through his knowledge of European cities and classical architecture.

His design for the University of Virginia, Charlottesville (1817-26), as a group of separate faculty pavilions around a green, linked by colonnades, was possibly based on the Chateau of Marly, near Versailles. The Rotunda at the head of the green was based on the Roman Pantheon, halved in scale. Jefferson was an inventive designer, experimenting with geometric room shapes and practical ideas (e.g. for skylights, stairs and water closets)

The Founding of the University of Virginia
Susan Tyler Hitchcock

Jefferson set to work on building plans that would mirror his philosophical vision. For Jefferson, the college experience should take place within an "academical village," a place where shared learning infused daily life.

Pavilions: Plans were developed for ten Pavilions -- stately faculty homes with living quarters upstairs and classrooms downstairs -- attached to two rows of student rooms and connected by an inward-facing colonnade. The Pavilions originally housed faculty and classrooms. Each Pavilion was identified with a subject to be studied and inhabited by the professor who taught that subject.

Rotunda: At the head of the shared lawn would stand the library (not, as in most other colleges and universities of the time, a chapel), its dome shape inspired by Rome's Pantheon and symbolic of the enlightened human mind. The plans grew to include two more colonnades of student rooms facing outwards and attached to a set of "hotels" where private businessmen served food for the students.

Jefferson corresponded with scholars in America and Europe, seeking the best faculty to teach in the areas of philosophy, arts, foreign languages, science, law, and medicine. Construction and transatlantic travel delayed the date of opening, but in March 1825, the University of Virginia opened to serve its first 123 students.

Companion page: INTERIOR PHOTOS

Photos and their arrangement © 2004 Chuck LaChiusa
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