Sunday, April 17, 2011

road trip | Monticello: the architecture of life

The day started with a visit to Thomas Jefferson’s universe: Monticello ---Italian word for small mountain. Monticello was created thanks to help of several hundred slaves ---which is quite contradictory with Jefferson’s famous creed stated in the Declaration of Independence “all men are created equal” in this sense he was very much a modern politician. Despite his privileged position, nature did not excluded him from tragedy: his lost his wife to childbirth complicated after ten year and lost four of his six children to illness. Jefferson was a true visionary in his Renaissance view of the world. Monticello, together with the University of Virginia he founded, is a perfect example of architecture as expression of ideals and a philosophy of agrarian life. The house follows a perfectly symmetric layout based on forms and proportion of classical architecture. The recurring shape in plan is the octagon, which for Jefferson was a symbol of perfection. In the architecture of the house includes a compass and several time keeping instruments, from sundials to astrolabe and a clock he himself designed. Jefferson was also a passionate meteorologist, making weather observations personally twice daily. Jefferson expertise extended to horticulture: several vegetable gardens and orchard (which he personally supervised) are integrated within the design of the landscape surrounding the house. Jefferson spent several years in France, from where he continued importing wine and glass for Monticello. His library, which he donated to Washington to replace the original library burned in the 1812 war, became the foundation for the Library of Congress. His art collection included painting and sculptures portraying some of Jefferson’s inspiring figures, from Isaac Newton to Locke.

But after all, what really makes Monticello so unique is the holistic vision behind its design and fruition, where ideals intersect with lifestyle and knowledge motivate actions.

Excerpts from the conceptual multimedia project
“Axes Mundi: Perceptions and Understanding of Places as Intersections of Space, Time and Culture"