Gaines Group Architects

1. Jefferson’s Academical Village #105architecturalinspiration

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Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village is the heart of the University of Virginia located in Charlottesville, Virginia. The structures comprising the space include the Rotunda, ten Pavilions, student rooms, Lawn, range rooms, and gardens some with Serpentine Walls (used as a frugal measure that creates architectural splendor). Jefferson conceived the college experience as a place for shared learning that infused daily life with study (blending public and private / professor and student spaces). The architecture of the space tells this story even today almost 200 years later.

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The head of the Lawn on the north end stands the Rotunda. In Jefferson’s design this was the main library and a sharp contrast to having the chapel be the center of the college experience as was common in the day. The shape and form of the Rotunda are inspired by Rome’s Pantheon symbolizing the enlightenment of the human mind and further telling his story through built form.

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Thomas Jefferson designed the Academical Village to be a place of inspiration. The structures are built to impress visitors while maintaining a simple elegance that is inviting and welcoming. There is a blend of formality and domestication from the overlapping public and private spaces along the edges all framing the large public square, The Lawn, in the center. At first glance the red bricks and white columns seem uniform creating a regular pattern from end to end. However, taking a moment to experience the space you quickly see many irregularities even in the most common of elements. These gestures are just another way that Jefferson showed that with time and study amazing new discoveries can be made in life. His original vision was to leave the end of the village open as a gesture to emphasize that your learning experience never ends, not even with graduation from the University. Jefferson’s simple yet complex design moves, his planning for the future generations to experience the space, and the story he tells through this built form make this one of my favorite architectural works that inspire.


#105architecturalinspirations is a collection of architectural details, buildings, and spaces that inspire me. I am taking on the challenge of finding two projects to spotlight each week in 2015. Hopefully I will be able to keep up and this process of discovery will push me to create better design solutions for my clients as I research and learn more about those projects I enjoy most. I challenge you to add your comments below about this project and to post your own inspirations for all to enjoy.