Saturday, July 9


An Embassy for the Republic of Slovenia in Washington DC, Street and Garden Facades, project by Matthew Alderman, Spring 2005, University of Notre Dame.

This hypothetical design for a Central European nation's embassy is an essay in depicting, describing, and in some sense constructing, nationhood. Slovenia is a young nation with, nonetheless, a long history. While the Eastern European National Romantic movement of the late belle-epoque largely bypassed Slovenia, it served as a model of how to marshall Slovenia's forgotten and sometimes conflicting pasts into something both modern and timeless. The design of this embassy draws on various regional architectures of the country--the Germanic palaces of the dark, forested northern borderlands, the Venetian architecture of the Istrian coast and the Baroque and florid art nouveau of Ljubjana, its centrally-placed capital to create a truly national style. Each represents a crucial time-period in the development of the independence of Slovenia's life of the mind, of her language and her art.

First Floor Plan, with door-frame detail from the Hall of Venus, or Library. The Hall of Venus derives its name from an elaborate chivalric pageant held in the thirteenth century by the Slovenian-speaking dukes of Spannheim, where a symbolic tableau held showed authority bowing to poetry in the form of a figure representing Venus.

An iconographic fresco cycle draws the viewer retrogressively backward through the country's past as he moves through the embassy floorplan, taking him from modern Slovenia with its representative democracy and ties to America, through periods of national revival and national oppression under German rulers and Turkish janissaries back to its distant elemental agrarian roots as a tribal republic under the sixth-century dukes of Karantania, whose election rites so fascinated Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (later Pius II) and the founders of the American republic.

Side facade showing change in grade elevation, rear ballroom and garden wall. The wooden architecture reflects Slovenia's rustic, pastoral antiquity, while the peasant's hat above the coat of arms in the upper left corner is a decorative device repeated throughout the building, a local symbol which in the fresco cycle devised for the embassy, serves to parallel the liberty cap of other nations.

The Slovenian embassy re-enacts and codifies Slovenia's past and at the same time expresses her commitment through time to the values that both she and America hold dear, serving as a beacon of both her proud and unique history and at the same time the universality of her democratic beliefs.

For larger versions of these images, go to Slovenia 1, Slovenia 2, and Slovenia 3. They will also be published in the 2005 Notre Dame School of Architecture student retrospective, Acroterion.

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