Built in 1826, Thomas Jefferson designed the Rotunda as the final and most impressive feature of the Academic Village. Located on The Lawn, the Rotunda serves as the epicenter of the University of Virginia and the symbol of power and education. Jefferson found influence from the Roman pantheon, hence acquiring a passion for Neoclassical architecture. Although the Rotunda’s dome was an impressive feature of the period, its shape presented problems from the beginning. Years after its construction, engineers placed tanks in cavities of the bricks that supported the dome, in hopes of acquiring more water. However, the tanks leaked and caused damage to the interior and exterior of the building, along with historic books.
With numerous projects to repair the dome roof, the Rotunda also faced a fire in 1895. This event kicked off consistent renovations for centuries, even leading to a change in the dome’s color from copper to white. Most recently, the University called for Rotunda renovations in 2012. Finally completed in 2016, the rotunda still stands as the University of Virginia’s proudest feature.
Still serving as a library, students gather in the Rotunda to study. The dome-shaped structure engulfed by windows allows guests to experience Jefferson’s unique vision as they view the university. The Rotunda also operates as a site for special events. In 1976, Virginia Governor Mills E. Godwin hosted Queen Elizabeth II for a luncheon in the Dome Room. An UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rotunda welcomes visitors for free tours and allows them to experience its age-old beauty.