Architecture for Politics? A New Swiss Embassy in Washington DC

Switzerland plans to establish a new embassy in Washington D.C. Essentially, the project continues the tradition of a diplomatic mission of a sovereign state within another nation with the concomitant physical and representative insignia.However, the reality of diplomacy has changed quite a lot since the Congress of Vienna, where this type of modern diplomacy was originally invented. Foreign politics nowadays uses other channels; information is no longer conveyed by means of diplomatic bags and ambassadors are rarely the first to know if something happens between two countries. All in all, not only has official diplomacy lost some of its significance, political relations between nations, too, have lost some of their importance compared to economic or cultural relationships. The field of politics has been seized by new, non-governmental protagonists such as global acting firms, NGOs, or liberation movements. Switzerland is, moreover, a rather insignificant country – as far as its foreign politics and policies are concerned – whose sovereignty is weakened, whose self-confidence has suffered some setbacks lately, and whose relationship with its mighty host country has, in the last few years, mainly drawn people\’s attention because of its \”forgotten\” Jewish bank accounts.So what can an embassy be there today – and how should it look? Within the field of diplomacy and foreign politics there are many new ideas and concepts of novel international platforms that manage and link the most diverse official and unofficial powers and movements in the host countries, combined with a political objective. Such missions shall henceforth be rather hybrid institutions located somewhere between a communication platform, an agency for public relations and information, an event node or junction, and a more or less secret or public place of negotiations.Pedagogical Objectives:The course pursues a twofold goal: it not only aims to design a new type of embassy but also the concomitant diplomatic strategy for the embassy. It shall translate an abstract program outline into a concise idea of possible scenarios and activities including a stage they may be performed on. The communications effect of these novel forms of diplomacy shall become increasingly important and the concomitant staging (the diplomatic play) and the stage itself (the actual building) will, no doubt, be accorded the same level of importance.Completion Requirements:A CAD version of the site plan and a series of pictures and movies will be submitted. In addition, those interested may visit the actual site, though this is not mandatory. The group will jointly create a large-sized site model. In addition to the usual plans, large-scale spatial models will play an important role throughout the course toward the ultimate submission.