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The Muppets take Monticello
wolveswithkeys wrote in archjr

So imagine if you will that Fozzie Bear, Kermit the Frog and Sam Eagle are on a road-trip to Charlottesville, VA. That would be desperately close to what my past weekend was. AND IT WAS GLORIOUS.

But all joking aside, this past weekend I got to go to Monticello, the foremer home of Thomas Jefferson. Ahh Tommy J, author, diplomat, governer, president, Lousianna Purchaser and most importantly (at least in my opinion), Architect. As much as I admire Thomas Jefferson, I was almost expecting, though hoping against it, that this house would be another quasi-paladian schlock-fest, the kind we have come to expect from other American houses at the time, like Mount Vernon (George Washington's home in Alexandira, VA) 
But I was proven completely wrong. While Monticello is riddled with Paladian references, they're not direct, there is a degree of interpretation that gives a very clear window into the early creation of our nation and what one of our most influential founding fathers hoped it would be.

Designing Monticello was an ever evolving process for Jefferson, his early creation of the house was extremely different from what stands there today. Originally the house was square and closed off, however when Jefferson returned from France he had almost 3/4 of the house torn down so he could start again. Jefferson was extremely influenced by French designs, which themselves were derived from Italian designs. However, during his stay in Paris as the embassador for the United States, Jefferson studied some of the greatest architecture the western world had to offer and his keepsakes from these escursions would be his memory. 

However, in comparison to Versailles, (which is where Jefferson stayed while in France) Monticello becomes as much a criticism of French Design as it is a monument to it.

Versailles is about grandure and decadence with Nature as a means to that end (note the floral designs) while Monticello defines itself as the understanding of nature through the study and persuit of it (not the antlers brought back by Lewis and Clark). Jefferson wanted the United States, and indeed Americans themselves, to be every bit as educated as Europeans but through their own self-improvement and not as a reward for having been born to rich parents. But that's enough on the History, lets talk buildings, yo.

If James Bond had lived in the 18th c. he would have lived at Monticello. Why? Because everything in this house doubles as something else. Like a pen that serves as a phone or a hairbrush that will cause you to die a terrible death.

Example 1: The triple-hung window.
A window that doubles as a Door. you just push all the panes all the way up and walk out onto your terrace.

Example 2: Dumb-waiter Fireplace

When leaving the party is just NOT an option. You can send this baby down to your private wine cellar.

Example 3: Beds in between the walls and open air summer storage

So, you don't want your stuff to get moldy, you want to get at it quickly and you HATE beds crowding up your room? Problem solved. Just hollow out the wall and BAM! done.
However there was a little wierdness as facing one of the beds was being watched byt this bust of John Adams.

The most important thing about Monticello is how well all of these spaces work together and with the surrounding enviornement. This house is the product of a technically minded-man who saw himself, above all things, as a farmer. So therefore all the land is visible from the walkway which overlooks the University of Virginia (another project which Jefferson oversaw the construction on). Through this walkway the house connects to the landscape as well as the herb-gardens by means of the slaves quarters, which appropriately form the foundation. Its the real tradgedy about this house; a wonderous place brought about by one of the ugliest things one human being can do to another.  

That being said, I'm going to state something that may be considered, blasphemous: Monticello is a way better house than FallingWater. 

Don't freak out.

FallingWater is, of course, one of the greatest examples of Architecture we have, but it is not a better house. The kitchen at FallingWater is atrocious and the spaces are overly specific and maybe a little self-righteous. This is not to say the rooms in Monticello are any better, but where Frank Lloyd Wright shoves his ethos in your face, demanding your allegiance, Thomas Jefferson sits back and grimaces while you make a fool out of yourself. FallingWater is a work of art that is too pretty to live with everyday, as admirable as it is unpractical. Monticello is a sweater, something that you could loaf around in but still go to the store. 
The End.

P.S. Sorry for the massive drop-offs in posts. My computer crashed and most of my work is being done at the Public Library which is distracting. How so? The man in front of me is currently searching for "Lindsay Lohan + Blowjob" and the woman next to me is singing "Man in the Mirror" for the third time in a row.


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