ROME, Italy—Grawemeyer Hall is a red brick building in the University of Louisville reminiscent of the Neo-Georgian works that sprung up during the United States’ colonial days. Its rotunda is said to be inspired by the Jeffersonian Rotunda in the University of Virginia—a circularred brick building preceded by a porch made of columns and a triangular pediment. While that may be true, the architectural design has a much older origin that can be found in the Pantheon in Rome.
During my recent visit to Rome I was fascinated by the Pantheon’s geometric symbiosis, using the sphere and cube to represent a harmony between the heavens and the earth. In my eyes Grawemeyer Hall ceased being a university building and instead became the offspring of an ancient monument adapted to fit its new environment.
I began seeing architectural similarities in the buildings surrounding me. Features such as Corinthian columns flanking an entrance, a floral relief ornamenting the side of a wall, and curved pediments coveringoval windows can be found throughout Louisville, all manifestations of architectural elements developed during the ancient world.
Certainly, they do not hold the ethos a building acquires once it has reached a certain level of antiquity. But these buildings do embody histories of faraway lands from a time long ago. By using architectural elements of the past, they create memories without an origin, promote an understanding of beauty that we no longer understand, and connect us to a past that was never our own.