Thomas Jefferson believed the college experience should take place within an "academical village," a place where interaction between scholars and students enlivened the pursuit of knowledge.
Jefferson's brilliant arrangement of the University buildings (constructed 1817-1827) produced a collegiate complex that is among the most beautiful in the world. Two rows of five Pavilions, with connecting dormitory rooms joined by a covered walkway, open out to a grassy yard called the Lawn.
The ten Pavilions are stately faculty homes with living quarters upstairs and classrooms downstairs. Jefferson designed each one in a different style, thereby offering separate lessons in classical architecture.
At the head of the Lawn stands the focal point of Jefferson's design -- the Rotunda -- which served as the library. It was unique in that universities at the time all centered on a church or chapel.
The 78' wide dome-shaped Rotunda was inspired by Rome's Pantheon and is symbolic of the enlightened human mind. The Rotunda suffered a great fire in 1895; people ran into the burning building and rescued books, papers, and even the large statue of Jefferson (if you look carefully, the statue's cape has a chip in it that happened during the rescue).