covered walkway

The covered walkway which is supported by the colonnade is typically justified in a practical manner. According to Jefferson, it gives the advantage of allowing students to be protected from the elements as they walk to class. Indeed, it works as a circulation device that links the dormitories and the Pavilions together. However, the fact that it is an exterior, public space gives it the paradoxical effect of isolating each dormitory, rendering it not unlike a monk’s cell in a monastary. This effect is very likely intentional on Jefferson’s part, who understood that not only community but solitude was necessary for a scholarly life. Thus the walkway is at once a unifying and dividing element. It also plays a role in establishing the hierarchy of the academic community, for the walkway is two-tiered. The roof of the colonnade is also a platform accessible only from the Pavilions; from the upper tier the professors can visit each other, literally walking above the heads of the students, and being able to survey the expanse of the Lawn from the vantage point. The colonnade of the walkway, directly adjacent to a “colonnade” of trees planted on the Lawn, is also part of the nature/artifice dialectic inherited from the Roman and Palladian villas.