Track 2: Materials over Time: Points of Change

General Abstract

2 - Jeffersonian Terras Roof Structures – Modern Interventions

Wednesday, September 26
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: HYATT-Grand EFG

(Proposed for Track 2, but flexible for a better fit elsewhere)

This abstract proposes a presentation focusing on recently-completed and ongoing projects on “terras” roof architecture (designed by Thomas Jefferson) at the University of Virginia and Monticello. Similar serrated roof structures are also present in the region at Poplar Forest and Bremo.

Working collaboratively with historic preservation architects and project managers at UVA and Monticello, as well as Mesick-Cohen-Wilson-Baker Architects (Albany, NY), Keast & Hood has provided structural engineering services to restore historic features to these flat roof structures; meeting the intent of modern codes while preserving historic materials and geometry.

At UVA, structures containing student rooms are located between the ten “Pavilions” which originally housed professors. Both the student rooms and Pavilions are still used for their original function, but are now provided as high honors for deans and fourth-year students. The original “flat” roofs leaked almost immediately and were soon covered with gable roof structures which existed into this decade. The university is currently in a long-term project to remove the non-original gables and structure modern flat roofs (and historically-accurate railings) to the buildings; “encapsulating” and protecting the historic fabric while providing modern function and waterproofing, and achieving the aesthetic goal intended by the original design. The structure consists of tapered glue-laminated beams which fit into every valley of the serrated roof. While each individual section of roof between Pavilions has its own unique construction, credit will be given to Mr. David Fischetti who before his passing provided structural engineering on the first of these projects and set the tone for the later efforts.

At Monticello the terraces provided many functions as they extend to the north and south of main house around the west (rear) lawn. Beyond functioning as a modern deck might, they were used to collect rainwater and as roofing for kitchens, storage, stables, and housing of enslaved persons over the history of Monticello. They fell into disrepair and were later reconstructed with white-painted “Chinese railings” similar to those at Monticello. However, recent research found that Jefferson intended for railings closer to a picket fence and a more natural green color to be used. Based on Jefferson’s descriptions and sketches, along with watercolor paintings of Monticello, new picket railings were designed and installed. Keast & Hood worked carefully with Monticello and MCWB Architects to incorporate steel elements into the picket fencing in order to satisfy the intent of modern structural railing codes for public assembly areas, while achieving an aesthetic of light wood fencing where steel is nearly undetectable to visitors at Monticello.

Historical research including drawings, written descriptions, and early images will be presented as well current drawings and in-progress and completed construction photos.

Learning Objectives:

Craig Swift, PE, SE, LEED AP

Principal / Structural Engineer
Springpoint Structural

Craig Swift is a structural engineer and owner of Springpoint Structural in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was previously the founding principal of Keast & Hood’s Charlottesville office, which recently became Springpoint.

Since 2010 (including a period working directly for UVA) he has served as consulting structural engineer on a variety of historic structures, including multiple projects at the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Monticello and the Lawn at UVA.

Other projects related to Jefferson’s architecture have included roof repairs at historic Bremo and truss repairs to Jefferson-influenced courthouse designs in the area.

He has led other noteworthy historic projects at Gettysburg College, Virginia Tech, and Fort Monroe, as well as earthquake repairs at Latrobe’s Baltimore Basilica and the Sherman Building at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, DC.


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Dean Koga

Building Conservation Associates, Inc.


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2 - Jeffersonian Terras Roof Structures – Modern Interventions

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