Jefferson’s Masterpiece

Discussion. Collaboration. Enlightenment. These are the ideals to which Thomas Jefferson aspired when conceiving the University of Virginia. In his quest to reinvent higher education in America, Jefferson sought to cultivate an environment in which students and faculty could live and learn from one another.

At the University of Virginia, scholars and professors could exercise their ingenuity, develop the tools of self-governance and push the boundaries of knowledge in service to the common good.

The result was a revolution: the Academical Village. Designed to foster cross-disciplinary exchange, Jefferson's design housed faculty from a range of specialties around a central Lawn. Students lived in single rooms between professors' homes. At the head of their shared Lawn stood the library (also known as the Rotunda). And at the Lawn's foot lay a panoramic view of the mountains, suggestive of the intellectual frontiers that lay open to discovery.

Indeed, Jefferson's Academical Village gave physical shape to his ideals--ideals that would alter the course of higher education in America and the world.

A World Treasure

UVA is regarded as one of the most beautiful and prestigious universities in the world. In 1987, UNESCO named the University (in conjunction with Monticello) a World Heritage Site. This rare distinction has been bestowed upon only the world’s most culturally significant landmarks. As a proud recipient of this honor, UVA sits alongside such renowned global sites as the Acropolis, the Galapagos Islands and the Pyramids of Giza. The University is one of only two such sites still being used for its original purpose.

The Academical Village continues to bring Jefferson's vision to life every day. The Rotunda—originally the University’s library—still serves as the heart of the University and as a symbol of our endless pursuit of knowledge. The eastern and western sides of the Lawn retain the unique pavilions sketched by Jefferson, flanking student living quarters. Designed to promote purposeful collaboration, these buildings continue to play a major role in the University’s community, housing our most honored faculty and student leaders.