Entrance on Whitehaven Street
“The Chancery building is comparable to the human body: outside it has uniform, monochromatic skin; inside it is very colorful, a metaphor of the system of veins and arteries of the human body”.
The history of the project of the new Embassy of Italy in Washington begins in 1992, with the competition held to select a renowned Italian architect for the construction of the building.
The design chosen was the one conceived by Architect Piero Sartogo and developed by the architectural firm Sartogo Architetti Associati.
The building was inaugurated in the year 2000 in one of the most important urban areas of Washington, the so-called Embassy Row, where most of the diplomatic chanceries and residences are concentrated.
For his project Architect Sartogo took inspiration from the urban framework of Washington laid out at the end of the eighteenth century by Architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant. The quadrangular plan of the building by Sartogo reflects the original concept that L’Enfant imagined for the capital city.
Just as the river Potomac divided the original area of the District of Columbia between Virginia and Maryland, the Italian Chancery is sliced by a diagonal cut that splits it into two equal parts.
The Embassy was envisioned as a meeting point for the community. Recalling the idea of an Italian square, its vast atrium, covered by a glass dome, can host more than 1000 people.
At first sight the interior of the embassy gives one a feeling of a Euclidean space based on perfect geometrical symmetries. On the other hand, a more thorough look reveals that the geometry and harmony of the building is interrupted by elements that create asymmetry, and that generate a play of facets and perspectives within the complex.
The building also has an auditorium that can seat 128 and several functional meeting rooms. Each of these spaces is made unique by its elegance and flexible usage possibilities.
The furnishings of the internal spaces is based on research for harmony between the architectural spaces and its decorative objects, selected based on criteria of beauty and functionality.
The embassy has been enriched by a collection of objects of Italian interior design from the last 40 years. Amongst the big names that inspired the collection are: Carlo Scarpa, Achille Castiglione, Renzo Piano, Luciano Baldassarre, Ettore Sottsass and many others.
Modern design and traditional Italian artistry are exhibited side by side in the spaces of the Embassy with the juxtaposition of various archeological artifacts of the Greco-Roman era and with several Italian paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries.