5 Dec 2022


Thomas Jefferson’s Neoclassicism

Format: MLA

Academic level: College

Paper type: Research Paper

Words: 1117

Pages: 4

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Built environments and architecture are useful tools for conveying the philosophical and ideological beliefs of those who are in close interaction with them. For instance, the Romans and Greeks demonstrated their strength and the quest for world domination through their architecture, which was further modified and refined by Palladio leading to its widespread use in the whole of Europe (Pinkston). It is a neoclassical type of architecture that dominated government buildings not only in the USA but also in Europe. Thomas Jefferson created a national identity for the United States by adopting neoclassical architecture that espoused the ideals of classical civilizations, academia, and democracy (Sayre, 2019). Jefferson’s neoclassicism was a type of architectural design that signified an embodiment of the classical civilization aimed at restoring its intellectual and artistic values. 


Thomas Jefferson was a great admirer of architectural designs that had their origins from the classical Roman and Greek works. He utilized the classical definitive proportions and orders of scale to create indicators of the neoclassical styling and designs (Sayre, 2019). His most notable neoclassical designs included Monticello, Country homes, the University of Virginia, the new capital city of Washington, and plantations situated in the southern parts of America (Pinkston). He is regarded as the most notable personality that greatly influenced the emergence of neoclassicism as a symbol of American democratic principles that became a dominant feature in most American buildings of the past and present. 

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These works of architecture send a strong message that connects the country’s past to those who interact with the built environment that America is a country that fully embraces the principles of democracy and freedom. They symbolize a country that is free from the influences of tyranny as was witnessed in countries such as England. They send a strong message that America is a country that is able to stand on its own due to its free-thinking ideals. These works of architecture are a reflection of a country that is assertive and confident, and one that is rapidly developing its political and national identity among the nations of the world. They act as powerful reminders to its citizenry that they share common key ideals. 

Jefferson’s Neoclassical Built Environments 

An observation of Jefferson’s Washington architectural designs leads to a recognition of the impact these buildings had on the citizens of their country in a budding nation. The structures of the buildings were characterized by imposing facades that soared to the skies and had Parthenon-like colonnades. They are creations of art that have a lasting impression on the citizenry and give them a sense of identity and nationhood. The buildings were designed by stone, demonstrating the idea of stability and permanence. They also exhibit great skill and workmanship, which is representative of the great cost of democracy. Their design and workmanship serve as a great inspiration for nationalistic pride that is vibrant and robust to the common American citizen who has never experienced the stature of the architecture of this scale of elegance. 

The neoclassical designs of the architecture of Virginia and Washington represent the new form of educational, civic, and governmental buildings across the whole country. It brings a sense of uniformity and standardization that captured the aspirations of the country. Different states in America adopted this architectural form by sourcing materials from several locations throughout the country as a symbol of nationhood. The main materials used for the construction of neoclassical buildings were granite and marble, which were sourced from Georgia, while limestone originated from Pennsylvania. This type of participation creates a sense of nationhood to citizens who felt that they were playing a part in creating a national identity for themselves. Jefferson’s neoclassicism portrays a conveyance of powerful American ideals, including a new trend of exercising authority by those with influence and power. It demonstrates an understanding of the classical way of thinking, intellect, and economic wealth. 

Significance of Jefferson’s Neoclassical Architecture 

Jefferson’s neoclassical architecture was an attempt to reinforce classical ideals in a different manner in the United States. The classical ideals under consideration included rationality, democracy, education, and civic responsibility. It was a form of rejection of the British ideal of architectural designs that dotted European countries such as France (Wilson, 2019). In creating this new form of architecture, Jefferson laid much emphasis on the symbolic nature of architecture. His designs were a depiction of a country’s aspirations in areas of governance and civil duties. It signified a need to create a national symbol that could help the citizenry forge a common identity and nationalism. 

However, the most important ideal that is portrayed by this form of architecture is that of democratic principles and freedom. It drew from the ideals of classical architecture and modified it to suit the ideals and aspirations of the American people. For instance, the Virginia State Capitol was modeled based on the Roman Temple in France. The temple was a classical work of art whose ideas were modified and refined to suit the aspirations of American society (Sayre, 2019). It created the ideological foundations and principles on which Jefferson used to come up with his neoclassical buildings. The Virginian building gave Jefferson a sense of identity and belonging. 

It was designed to capture those ideals which were regarded as American. The buildings had mathematically calculated proportions of columns and rows of columns that created a sense of order, rationality, and stability. These are ideals which Jefferson regarded as representative of the American way of life. They were concepts that needed to be adopted by all Americans to create a sense of identity and nationalism. The ideals also capture the spirit that is inherent in Roman architecture 

The Neoclassical Architecture and Nationhood 

Jefferson’s neoclassical architecture can be attributed to his ideological beliefs of nationhood in American society. His works are a demonstration of a construct of an enlightened and progressive order for the American nation that would serve as an inspiration and model for the whole world. It highlights his vision for his country as a founding statesman that captures his notions of nationhood. His designs form interpretations of the country’s national identity, including ideas about its global dominance (Varga, 2018). Jefferson considered America to be an empire of liberty that was self-governing. His political vision for his country played a great role in his neoclassical architectural designs. He attempted to envisage a new American identity that was free from any imperialistic tendencies of the past. 


In closing, Jefferson’s neoclassicism should be regarded as a form of architectural design that captured the artistic and intellectual values that were inherent in classical civilizations (Sayre, 2019). It is a demonstration of a free and democratic society that identifies itself as one nation. His architectural designs were indicators that America was one nation that was stable and one that was able to stand on its own. It gave its citizens a sense of belonging and enhanced civil responsibility and obligations to the government. In this regard, it should be noted that the neoclassicism architecture that was introduced by Jefferson was a perpetuation of the classical ideals of art and intellect that had a great significance in enhancing America’s sense of nationhood and identity. 


Pinkston, R. Neoclassicism. (2016) Lens for the Interpretation and Creation of Nationalistic Architecture and the Built Environment. https://charlotteteachers.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/RPinkston-unit.pdf 

Sayre, H. (2009). Discovering the Humanities (3 rd Edition). Abe Books. 

Varga, E. (2018).  American Values Embodied: Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness, and Jeffersonian Architecture  (Doctoral dissertation, szte). http://diploma.bibl.u-szeged.hu/73887/ 

Wilson, M. O. (2019).  Thomas Jefferson, Architect: Palladian Models, Democratic Principles, and the Conflict of Ideals . Yale University Press. 

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