Thomas Jefferson: The American Architect

Thomas Jefferson is acknowledged as the first significant American Architect. He used Classical architecture to symbolize ideas and aspiration of a new democracy. Robert Venturi is believed to be the architect who opened the door to post-modernism. He believed that less is not more, less is a bore. Jefferson believed in cubic architecture with basic forms of geometry and mathematical proportion. Venturi was opposed to need for geometric balance and believed that architecture could be awkward, different, surprising, and complex.

Jefferson had a logical analysis of beauty, convenience, strength, and ornament with necessity. He employed Roman Classicism in public buildings and Palladian traditions in private homes to symbolize ideals and aspirations of a new democracy. Jefferson modeled buildings in simpler forms of the Maison Carree and the Pantheon. Venturi believed that works of architecture did not need to be beautiful, and that fun, humor, surprise, and character adds to buildings. He modeled a building in the shape of a duck, was in favor of Las Vegas billboards, and architecture that told a story as it is approached at different speeds.

Jefferson believed in logical analysis of beauty, mathematical analysis of proportion, and ornament with necessity. This contradicts Venturi’s belief that a work of architecture does not have to be beautiful, proportional, and geometric. Also Venturi was in great favor of decoration and ornament with or without necessity. Although Jefferson and Venturi had different theoretical styles, today they are both appreciated as two of the great architects of American History.


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