An Embassy to the New Republic of Venice

Will and I have been playing with newspaper headlines for our Kingston University Architecture and Landscape 2nd year studio. This is what we’re doing:

Venetian separatists ask Rome for their embassy back
The Venetian independence movement wants to use Rome’s iconic Palazzo Venezia as their embassy, following an unofficial ‘referendum’ in which a majority of voters backed separating from Italy (Daily Telegraph, Tom Kington and Colin Freeman, 2014)

As Europe fragments, many countries find themselves fracturing into either their ancient constituent countries (England, Scotland, Wales, perhaps Cornwall, for example) or even into independent city-states much as medieval Italy used to be. Encouraged by these changes, and some 219 years since losing its thousand-year independence to Napoleon, Venice has, today, proclaimed itself, once more, an independent republic: La Nuova Repubblica di Venezia (NRV).

Since 1846 when Venice first became physically connected to the mainland, visitors have flocked across the bridge from terra firma into Piazzale Roma. With the advent of the NRV some visitors would like to stay longer. In a city whose population has, in recent decades, plummeted to unsustainable levels these migrants are welcome. We will be designing for them, and for the thousands of tourists who will continue to accompany them, an ‘orientation’ building.

As an independent polity the NRV is now host to a number of foreign ‘diplomatic missions’ whose object is to represent the interests of their countries in Venice. ‘London City’ also having recently declared its independence, in its case from England, is preparing to send to the NRV just such a diplomatic mission. Typically, a diplomatic mission is housed in an embassy building. Studio 2.2 will tap into the great architectural tradition of embassy buildings (Spence, Saarinen, Jacobsen, Fretton et al), to design the London City embassy building in the New Republic of Venice.

We have invented a scenario which is not fanciful, which is rooted in clear and present political realities and which considers the architectural implications of those realities. In the same sense your buildings will also not be fanciful; in particular we are not interested in nationalistic pastiche, instead we encourage sophisticated material, formal and theoretical responses to place, history and community. Venice is not a dead, museum city – it is alive and kicking.

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