The Awesome Architecture Of Thomas Jefferson
It's Jefferson's birthday. What does that mean at Bisnow? We're taking a look at our founding father's real estate. It turns out Jefferson was actually a prolific architect, when he wasn't busy writing the Declaration of Independence, of course.
Jefferson designed his own house and plantation, which he named Monticello ("little hill" in Italian).
Rather than use a stock design from an English architectural handbook, Jefferson did the whole blueprint himself. Jefferson had no formal architectural training, but read extensively on Roman and Renaissance architecture—hence those sweet columns.
Jefferson even tried his hand at designing the president's house. His blueprint (pictured) didn't win the eventual White House bid, but...it isn't too far off.
At a gathering of 49 Nobel Prize winners at the real version of the building, JFK famously highlighted Jefferson's many talents. "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
Perhaps Jefferson's most well-known architectural feat is the Rotunda at the University of Virginia—which he founded. The grand building was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, hence the columns. (Sensing a theme here?)
The Rotunda, the surrounding area and Monticello combine to form one of only three Unesco World Heritage sites in the US.
In fact, the Rotunda's iconic design has a wide reach—it even inspired the design of Memorial Hall (below) at another one of the country's oldest universities, the University of Delaware.
Guido Beltramini, curator of an exhibition on Jefferson's architectural talents, tells the New York Times that Jefferson's architectural prowess goes hand-in-hand with his status as a visionary.
“There are two kinds of architects, those who create great buildings and those who look for systems that can improve the world around them.”