Til bevillingsoversigt

Unheard workers: behind a foreign diplomatic architecture of the 1960s in Rome.

HM Queen Margrethe II’s Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Danish Academy in Rome


The project aims to study the construction of foreign diplomatic architecture in the 1960s in Rome, Italy. The main case study is Det Danske Institut i Rom (1967), but the project considers also the Japan Cultural Institute (1962) and the British Embassy (1968). Their construction had many converging aspects. They all practiced a mono-material construction, from scratch, following home architectural building traditions, though displaced on Italian ground. Similarly, their current historiography is widely forged around authorial master-dominations: where each construction was conceived only by a famous architect. However, this project aims to widen the field, through recognising its many 'blind spots', and to include all those actors not credited and recognised yet: the unheard workers.


The scientific relevance is related, content-wise, to the need to investigate, historically, the contemporary export dynamics of architectural production. The project frames three buildings that embody, for their ontological function, the same cross-cultural dynamics that have allowed domestic 'islands' to be built into hosting foreign contexts since post-war. Method-wise, the project reappraises dominant architectural historiographies including diversity and social justice (i.e. labour and class disparity) as new keys of research. The research, in fact, argues that the establishment of the foreign diplomatic architecture was strongly conditioned by hosting Italian materials, people, and labour practices: though these have been, so far, neglected circumstances by historians.


In order to attain its goal, the project states its historical background in those cross-cultural histories of architecture that happened in the latter half of the twentieth century. The method of research proposed are 'archival review' and 'oral history'. For the first one, it will investigate archival materials that have not been explored yet but that are crucial to cast new lights on the current field (e.g. bilateral agreements, building site minutes, correspondences, fax, photos, tender contracts, et al.). For the second one, when practicable, interviews will be conducted with those people that can tell about the occupancy and construction of buildings, adding new layers of comprehension through personal anecdotes and private correspondences.


This project deals with diversity and inclusivity. It includes equity and social justice into architectural historical research in both content and method. To build a diverse academia answer to a call into scientific social responsibility. Unfolding considerations of ethnicity, gender, labour, and class disparity as lens of investigation, is, in fact, an imperative need towards the decolonisation of the modes in which we approach and research architectural history in contemporary times. Moreover, the research might be beneficial also to those contemporary private architectural practices, that are rooting only in Denmark in 2019 more than half of their turnover to export in foreign countries; but, still, they need guidance on how their home practices can be adapted to foreign settings.