Jeffersonian Classicism 1790-1830

20 Jun
Monticello The Rotunda, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA Beijing’s Tsinghua University campus’s Grand Auditorium
     
Jeffersonian Architecture or Jeffersonian Colonial is an American form of Neo-Classicism or Neo-Palladian based on U.S. president and patriot, Thomas Jefferson’s designs of his home, Monticello, his retreat at Poplar Forest, the University of Virginia, and his design of Barboursville for his friend and political ally James Barbour. The style was popular in the early American period about the same time period as the more mainstream Greek Revival architecture was in vogue (1790s-1830s). Most heavily influenced by the Italian revivalist architect, Andrea Palladio, Jeffersonian architecture is perhaps best described as “Palladian” in inspiration. Jefferson was also influenced by architect James Gibbs, and by French Neo-classical buildings, such as the Hôtel de Salm in Paris, when he served as Ambassador to France. While the Jeffersonian style incorporates Palladian proportions and themes, it is at the same time unique to Jefferson’s own personal sensibility and the materials available to him in early republican Virginia.

One characteristic which typifies Jefferson’s architecture is the use of the octagon and octagonal forms in his designs. Palladio never used octagons, but Jefferson employed them as a design motif — halving them, elongating them, and employing them in whole as with the dome of Monticello, or the entire house at Poplar Forest.

Even after Jeffersonian Colonial went out of vogue for other public buildings, it continued to have an influence on many Protestant church designs on the East Coast through the mid-twentieth century. The style is still employed on some southern college campuses, particularly in Virginia, and has enjoyed a certain re-emergence among some newer twenty-first century evangelical church complexes.

A well-known example of Jeffersonian architecture outside of the United States could be found in one of China’s top universities, Beijing’s Tsinghua University campus’s Grand Auditorium, which was designed combining elements of the Jeffersonian architectural style in the early 20th century.

Common design elements
Palladian design e.g. central core, symmetrical wings
Main floor slightly elevated above ground level
Red brick construction
White painted columns and trim
Octagons and octagonal forms
Chinese railings
Columns using Greek orders e.g. Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian
Doric, Corinthian or Ionic order capitals
Portico-and-pediment primary entries
Classical moldings

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: