LETTER- Restore Jefferson's Rotunda
I read with interest
The controversy regarding restoration of the Rotunda, subject of Dave McNair's June 30 On Architecture column, "The Rotunda: What the devil to do with it?"brings up two major issues which should be distinguished: historic relevance and architectural aesthetics.
The original Rotunda was Thomas Jefferson's design and the centerpiece for his grand idea of the University of Virginia. The Rotunda has become an icon of UVA, the city of Charlottesville, and a designated World Heritage Site. This elevates it to historical significance, an enduring symbol of our country's emphasis placed on learning and scholarship. Therefore, the Rotunda should be true to Jefferson's original conception.
Concerning the architectural aesthetics of the Rotunda, it matters not who redesigned it, how well known or regarded they were– Jefferson's is the original. Its significance is not in the architecture itself but in the ideals the Rotunda represents.
And as for public polls conducted to determine reconstruction, damn them. I cringe every time I see the results of a poll of what the artistically uneducated, unaesthetically minded public likes or dislikes.
Artistic achievement is not based on public consensus, but has always been the individual artist producing work which went beyond what was current and commonly accepted, which at first generally met with public rejection and/or ridicule.
Both Jefferson's conception and White's remaking are copies of ancient architecture. Neither of these men was in the same architectural league as America's two greatest architects, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, who were great because they rejected the past to create a new conception of architecture, one truly American.
In conclusion, the Rotunda is an historic monument and is symbolic of the ideals of one of our greatest founding fathers and founder of the University if Virginia, and deserving of our respect. Restore it to its original design as Jefferson conceived it.