The author of the book explores the importance of the third president of the United States Thomas Jefferson describing him as a talented architect who had a tremendous influence on the style of classicism in the architecture of the country. Not being a professional architect, Jefferson, nevertheless, is considered to be one of the most famous ones in the US. The author drew attention to the fact that Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) introduced Neoclassicism based on both ancient Roman architecture and modern French rationalism in the U.S. The style was a contrast to a federated one. Jefferson was the most important representative of Neoclassicism, who managed to implement the classical heritage in his best projects. A harmony of proportions and grandeur distinguish his building of the Virgin Capitol in Richmond (1785-1796), which reminds an ancient temple with a six-columned portico strongly projecting forward. The University of Virginia in Charlottesville (1818) wonderfully combined with the surrounding park is more intimate in terms of nature and picturesque in its planning.
The same features of the complete and harmonious union with nature characterize Villa Monticello (1796-1809) in Virginia. The principles of free interpretation not only of ancient, but also of Palladian architecture are clearly represented in this structure. Thus, the book provides an excellent opportunity to learn about the talent of Jefferson offering the reader a large number of colorful and memorable images accompanied by interesting descriptions and analyses.
In order to show the strength of the architect's talent as well as the magnitude of his impact, the author pays great attention to the depiction of such masterpieces created by him as his Monticello mansion in Virginia, The Virginia Capitol, and the Poplar Forest. In particular, a detailed portrayal of Monticello mansion that is illustrated by wonderful photographs of the interior and exterior covers 33 pages. The Virginia Capitol, Poplar Forest and other dwellings designed by Jefferson are analyzed in a separate chapter. What is more, Howard pays serious attention to such public building as the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Its amazing rotunda located at the head of a great lawn occupies a special place in the description of the university. The reader can enjoy the informative depiction of the halls, sitting rooms as well as of grounds near the building designed by a talented architect. The information in the book is presented using the principle of combining textual information with the visual one represented by color photos.
There is no doubt that Howard successfully coped with the task to present Jefferson as a unique personality that has made a significant contribution to the development of American architecture. Reading the book allows the reader to realize the value of the man not only as an effective leader of the U.S., politician, lawyer, and philosopher, but above all, as a talented architect whose work has played a particularly important role in the evolvement of the modern image of the United States. After reviewing the influence of the third president of the USA on its architecture, the reader can receive a complete picture of the merits of Jefferson, who did everything possible for the development of his country in many aspects. However, the value of this book is not only in the fact that it performs an informative function providing the reader with knowledge about the man's impact on the architecture in the US. Another important task of the author, which he also successfully managed to deal with, was to force the reader to analyze the material and come to independent conclusions. The author has made every effort to make the readers activate their skills of analytical and critical thinking and draw their own inferences. Thus, the value of this book is twofold; namely, to demonstrate an outstanding architectural talent of Jefferson and become food for philosophical reflection on the place and role of the man in the development of the U.S. as a whole. Howard has successfully coped with these two important tasks using informative and meaningful text, as well as colorful and amazingly beautiful pictures made by Roger Straus III.
For this reason, this book may be of interest to a wide number of people, regardless of their level of qualifications, social status, etc. It is useful for students with different educational levels because it has many advantages: it is easy to read and understand text and is characterized by the abundance of photos as illustrations. Those readers who like not only reading the text, but first looking at photos and pictures should be pleased by the book, because the number of images is quite extensive. At the same time, the readers for whom the informative text is of primary importance when reading the book will also be satisfied. The success of this work is assured by the fact that the author has successfully combined the text and detailed descriptions with different pictures.
The virtue of this book is not only the fact that it is rich in colorful illustrations, but also that its photos and text complement each other. After getting acquainted with a certain idea of the author expressed in the text, the reader is able to find confirmation of his words looking at the pictures. In turn, the photos can also tell the reader about what the text does not say. Howard skillfully uses a combination of graphical and textual types of information that enables the book to have a wide audience among a large number of people. Due to the workmanship of the author of the book every reader may find what is of greatest interest to him/her, namely, a lot of splendid pictures of beautiful buildings, or a fascinating text, based on historical information and data from other areas of knowledge (architecture, etc.).
To sum up, the book Thomas Jefferson, Architect: The Built Legacy of Our Third President by Hugh Howard has every reason to be considered an informative and interesting source of information for a wide number of people around the world. It might be interesting for the U.S. citizens whose duty is to know and respect the history of their country and persons who were directly involved in its development. Its reading might be also useful and, at the same time, intriguing for people from other countries who are not indifferent to the history of architecture and the lives and work of great personalities, one of whom was Thomas Jefferson. The readability and the ability to connect the text with the illustrations cannot but rejoice the readers who prefer to have a visual confirmation of textual information. A large number of qualitative colorful pictures is one of the ways the author uses to give the reader a complete picture of who Jefferson was as an architect, and how he influenced the development of the field in the United States.
In addition, the book has such dignity that not all popular and science books can boast of, namely using information from different areas of knowledge. The reader can learn about the history of the United States as a country that has gone through various stages of its development and formation. The book is also addressing the evolvement of the architecture that allows the reader to understand the characteristics of classicism represented in the architecture of the United States. In my opinion, the book deserves only positive reviews as Howard in collaboration with a photographer Roger Straus III were able to create an interesting, exciting and informative work based on the true facts of history, particularly the one of architecture. The book can be recommended for reading to a wide number of people.