Pavilion Architecture: A Living History


In 1984 the University initiated the first systematic restoration of the Pavilions on the Lawn. This process recaptured many original Jeffersonian spaces and interior finishes. Jefferson's original intent for the Academical Village has been the guiding force throughout the restoration process. James Murray Howard, curator and architect of the Academical Village, notes: "It is a living community that has been in continuous use since 1825. If the buildings, the central terraced green-space, or the gardens were isolated, it would violate the most compelling of Jefferson's reasons for designing a heterogeneous, tightly knit community of faculty and students. This place inspires and instructs through repeated use in everyday life."

In fact, teaching spaces have been recovered in two of the five restored Pavilions. Today students and teachers meet and learn in Pavilions, just as Jefferson planned. In preserving the Pavilions, the University is furthering Jefferson's hope that students would benefit from exposure to classical architecture. Howard says, "For those who did not grow up amidst the architectural glories of Europe, he [Jefferson] built corresponding models close at hand. The Academical Village will never lose its capacity to teach by affording simple, everyday exposure to utilitarian art."

Many discoveries about Jefferson's design and building practices were made during the restoration program. For example, evidence suggests that the brick columns along the Colonnades originally were not painted (as they were at Monticello), contradicting the contemporary use of brilliant white paint on the columns throughout the Village. Pavilion VIII, in particular, provided a look at Jefferson's early wood roofing system, both over student rooms and some Pavilions.

"The design of shallow, pitched roofs was incompatible with the conditions of climate and vegetation to which they were subjected," says Howard, "probably causing the roofs to leak even during the first years of occupancy." Consequently, by the 1980s very little of the original roofs existed, but analysis at Pavilion VIII uncovered a pattern of original roofing that Howard has preserved for future analysis.

As part of its continued restoration program for the entire Academical Village, the University plans to address the Colonnades and student rooms in the next several years. All of these efforts, says Howard, "serve but one goal: to pass along safely to future generations this phenomenal cultural artifact, which has survived as a gift to this age from the past."