THOMAS JEFFERSON

"The greatest service which can be rendered to any country
is to add a useful plant to its culture"

-T. Jefferson
University of Virginia

Thomas Jefferson was arguably the United States' first celebrated landscape designer/architect.  In fact his design for the University of Virginia campus is the forerunner of many college campuses in the United States.  It is in many ways a response to his time and education spent at William & Mary and his democratic ideals -- he designed the University of Virginia in which he united landscape, architecture and sky in one bold gesture. He situated the university in a valley at the feet of the Appalachian Mts and the buildings in an axial alignment.

He defined the campus as a community. “Campus” literally means “a field” (in it’s greek origin) and as such created a symbolic village green in the center of it. For Jefferson, the college experience would take place within an "academical village," a place where shared learning infused daily life. At the head of the shared lawn or “Academic Village” 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 library is flanked by living + learning spaces which surround the axial greensward or lawn. It is thought that one of Jefferson’s inspirations for the design/axial alignment lay in Chateau de Marly (designed by Mansart and LeBrun).
Chateau de Marly




The Lawn, the Rotunda, the axial alignment were the model for many similar designs of "centralized green areas" at universities across the country (most notably those at Duke University in 1892, Johns Hopkins University in 1902, Rice University in 1910, Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in 1915, the Green at the University of Delaware in 1916, and Killian Court at MIT. Many small colleges campuses such as Colby College in Maine, also echo this design.
Colby College



And as a former graduate student from Columbia University, I take particular delight in the inspiration that Jefferson had on the McKim, Meade, White design when the campus was moved uptown to Morningside Heights from lower Manhattan.
Columbia University








Today, UVa is the only college considered a UNESCO world heritage sight.