The Full Monticello

Posted in Uncategorized by johnsnavely on September 29, 2007


So I’m taking another crack at writing my abstract… this time from scratch from a completely different angle. Here’s the mega rough draft:


On Palladio’s I Quattro Libri dell’Architettura, Thomas Jefferson was said to have remarked, “[It is] the Bible—you should get it and stick close to it…” Jefferson’s plantation home in Virginia, Monticello, based closely on Palladio’s Villa Capra has been called both a masterful example of Palladian Architecture as well as the archetype of a truly American architectural style. The problem of Monticello is Jefferson’s realization of his dream of a villa designed in the mid 16th Century in Northern Italy for a priest alongside the reality of a plantation built in the mid-Atlantic in the mid 19th Century for a slave owner. This contrast, coupled with Jefferson’s fastidious desire to minimize slave presence in the public parts of the house while maximizing their access, revealed itself architecturally in Jefferson’s radical use of poche. In order to respect Palladian proportions, while at the same time accommodating his relatively modern requirements, using wall thickness as a variable, Jefferson reprogrammed the poche space of the Palladian plan. Poche spaces contained passages and stairways for the movement of slaves throughout the house. Storage and closets were tucked neatly into poche spaces. Technological advances like heating and chimney flues were hidden in poche spaces, as were bathing and toilet facilities. Specially designed dumbwaiters, again fit into the wall spaces, kept the slaves necessary for dinner to a minimum and allowed the kitchen to function autonomously in the basement, distancing the activity of food preparation from food serving from the actual activity of dining.

Using the technique of borrowing and reprogramming by adapting the poche space, this thesis attempts to insert movie palace from the early 20th century into a building that contains apartments, a bakery, a hair salon, and a 5000 square foot 99 cent store in an area in Brooklyn that, although it doesn’t contain slaves, is residence to groups of people who would prefer to remain separate.


hrm. well, that’s it. I’ve been trying to write it again… as if I were a developer.

I’ve been working off a set of visual images in my head based on the original idea: Film Noir Dinner Theater. I think this is leading me a little astray as far as framing my project and what I’m doing… Last week I built a model at 1/8th which was totally dumb. I got carried away, starting a study model that was too large and kinda a waste of time.


2 Responses

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  1. mdp said, on September 29, 2007 at 7:43 am

    Although imagining Jefferson utilizing his discreet network of passageways for access to his (slave) mistress(es) casts an even darker shadow on this pocheed Monticelloan reality, it might be useful in considering more possibilities for your ‘reprogramming.’ imagining potential ‘unprogrammed’ encounters/ activities in your hidden/tucked, thick spaces may help to integrate a programmatic mash-up.

    (a small tangent here: i am just reminded of a pair of pigeons who made their nest protected on a window sill in the air shaft between two nyc apartment buildings. programmed ‘air space’ for the interior human occupants becomes (re)programmed, (albeit on an admittedly micro scale) by the pigeons.

    Under what circumstances, conditions or chance, might groups of people (or individuals) who prefer to remain separate (in theory or in reality) prefer otherwise in your project? how or when might a space of division double as a space of encounter or collaboration?

    i am thinking about this short film i saw tonight, ‘Lucky.’ a Zulu orphan dealing with a complex set of emotional experiences bluntly and unwittingly breaks through his Indian neighbor’s overt racism. there is no poche, but the story is striking in its simultaneous directness and unexpectedness.

  2. Jenny said, on October 18, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    Just read this version now. I am highly amused by your sentence “although it doesn’t contain slaves.” Funny.

    Best to clarify the relationship between new architectural and old ones. Why keep certain elements and invent others? Your new language of architecture, so to speak, has the social purposes of articulating the needs and presence of the different demographics within South Williamsburg. This could be peep holes, opera boxes, or shared seating for small restaurants (think visual, tactile, psychological, sensory). See Owen Jones, Jacques Derrida, and Noam Chomsky or Alberti, Durand, and Semper.

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