The father of American architecture – An interview with President Thomas Jefferson.

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  • Monticello, Virginia, USA — In addition to being the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson was also an accomplished architect. He designed Monticello (his home in Virginia), the Virginia State Capitol Building and University of Virginia’s entire original campus. In celebration of the birthday of the United States of America, MicroStation Today arranged to speak to him about his love of architecture.

    MicroStation Today: Tell us about yourself.

    Mr. Jefferson: Well, I’ve been called “Man of the People”. I spent the better part of my life establishing the rights of the states. Aside from practicing law and politics, I also dabbled in many fields over the years such as fishing, archeology, writing, architecture and gardening. I actually came up with a way to enjoy English peas, fresh from the garden, three full months out of the year by staggering the planting of fifteen different types. English peas are wonderful!

    MST: I bet they are! Now Mr. Jefferson, I suppose most of our readers know what you have done as a statesman, but can you tell us some things about yourself that our readers might not know?

    Mr. Jefferson: Hmmm… Well, not many people know that I was the first president to shake hands when greeting people instead of bowing. I always liked to keep my posture in tip-top shape. It’s amusing to look around now and see how much the handshake has caught on!

    Aside from that, I used to keep a pet mockingbird named Dick in the White House study. I would let him ride on my shoulder whenever possible. I even trained him to take bits of food that I held between my lips at meals! Dick would always hop along after me, never far from my side.

    MST: That’s amazing! Now earlier you mentioned that you “dabbled” in architecture. I Googled your name and I would hardly call that dabbling, can you tell us about some of your history with CAD?

    Mr. Jefferson: Oh, CAD? When I started out, CAD hadn’t even been thought of yet. The majority of my work was on pen and paper, I had to use Axiom’s conversion services to convert it all to DGNs. I dare say, working with design files is exponentially easier then working with the old pen and paper. I was so relieved when the conversion was done!

    Anyhow, after the conversion was complete, I used my design of Monticello to put a little 3D application on the web so that people can do a virtual tour.

    MicroStation was a big step up from the old days of pen and paper. I must admit that when I first started using MicroStation, I did run into some problems. One day I was walking through my bear garden — I kept quite a few bears in my garden, they were gifts from Lewis and Clark you see — anyhow, I was walking through the garden and I received a call from an associate of mine at the American Institute of Architects. He was frantic, babbling about how he was sorry and he meant no harm. When I finally calmed him down, he explained that he had been working on the Monticello design and when he hit “fit view”, the whole design file had become a dot! I immediately called Axiom, they sent me FileFixer and the file was back to normal in a matter of minutes. I don’t know how we got this far without any of their tools! I immediately purchased MicroStation Productivity Toolkits for all five of my designers and it has paid for itself several times over.

    MST: What is your title? What are your daily duties?
    Mr. Jefferson: I guess I would describe myself as the author of the Declaration of American Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom. Oh yes, also the Father of the University of Virginia. Those are the things I am most proud of.

    As for daily routines, I really do so many things. I spend some time on archeology, digging up old ruins and such.

    There is one thing that I have done for many years though. Quite some time ago, I was given a large piece of cheese, a 1,235 pound hunk of it to be exact. I’ve been chipping away at it for years now with crackers and apples and such. Have you ever heard the term “The Big Cheese”? That term actually originated from this fantastic gift — interesting bit of trivia.

    MST: What are some of your biggest CAD jobs? Please provide details on them.
    Mr. Jefferson: I’d have to say that designing my home in Virginia, the Monticello, was quite a job. But the Virginia State Capitol and the University of Virginia campus were both pretty large as well.

    We were actually right in the middle of a huge job — hundreds of design files — when the United States switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. This meant that we had to change the date by eleven days in each and every title block! That would have been days and days of man-hours! Luckily, I had Title Block Manager! I was able to make the change in every single design file in just a couple of minutes! I really dodged a bullet there! [Editor’s note: The Gregorian calendar handles leap years differently than the Julian calendar and more accurately reflects the time it takes the Earth to revolve around the sun.]

    MST: What is your favorite TV show?

    Mr. Jefferson: West Wing.

    MST: If you could have a conversation with anyone, living or deceased, who would it be? What would you talk about?

    Mr. Jefferson: Ah, that’s easy! That would be English philosopher, John Locke. I always wished that I had had the chance to speak with him. I was inspired by his thoughts on property and value. For instance, the idea that ownership of property is created by the application of labor, and nothing else. If you were to read the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, there is no doubt that you would see shades of Locke shining through.

    As for what we would talk about? Anything and everything! I’ve studied his work and philosophies. But I know nothing of the man! For instance, who was his favorite football team? Did he prefer a particular genre of music? These are the things I would ask.

    And, of course, I never tired of debating political theory with my good friend John Adams.

    MST: Any final words for our readers?

    Mr. Jefferson: Never give up on freedom. I went through a lot to help get us where we are today and I’d say I’ve given everyone a pretty good head start. But keep in mind, I’m not merely talking about politics, I’m talking about every aspect of your life. Since this is a CAD periodical, I’ll just say that if there is a barrier in your way that is preventing you from doing your job right or if it’s stealing your weekends from you, get the tools you need to get it done right and right now. That’s what I did and it worked out pretty well for me!

    MST: To all American MicroStation users, have a wonderful Independence Day.

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