Nexus Network Journal

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 7–50 | Cite as

An American Vision of Harmony

Geometric Proportions in Thomas Jefferson’s Rotunda at the University of Virginia
  • Rachel Fletcher
Research Articles


Thomas Jefferson dedicated his later years to establishing the University of Virginia, believing that the availability of a public liberal education was essential to national prosperity and individual happiness. His design for the University stands as one of his greatest accomplishments and has been called “the proudest achievement of American architecture.” Taking Jefferson’s design drawings as a basis for study, this paper explores the possibility that he incorporated incommensurable geometric proportions in his designs for the Rotunda. Without actual drawings to illustrate specific geometric constructions, it cannot be said definitively that Jefferson utilized such proportions. But a comparative analysis between Jefferson’s plans and Palladio’s renderings of the Pantheon (Jefferson’s primary design source) suggests that both designs developed from similar geometric techniques.


Rachel Fletcher Thomas Jefferson University of Virginia Rotunda ellipses geometry geometric analysis geometric progressions geometric systems ad quadratum ad triangulatum phi golden section golden number golden mean incommensurables irrational ratios irrational numbers irrationals means ovals polygons proportion proportional analysis proportional systems ratio regular polygons equilateral triangle square regular pentagon sacred cut sacred geometry symmetry vesica piscis theory of proportion in architecture Leon Battista Alberti Sebastiano Serlio Andrea Palladio Vitruvius Pantheon Benjamin LaTrobe divine proportion Colonial American architecture 

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Great BarringtonUSA

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