“Diplopia” describes a disorder of vision in which two images of a single object are seen. Situated among other disciplinary -opias, diplopia is reimagined to invoke a double place, more narrowly, a space for diplomacy. Our modern concept of diplomacy emerged in the Italian Renaissance in the formalization of epistolary exchange between sovereign states. Ancestral letters—or diplomas—on the one hand an official state document conferring privilege, on the other simply a paper folded twice over, fold revelation within the act of concealment. This is the duplicitous act upon which diplomatic practices are founded. Since its emergence as a genre of space, the diplomatic setting has been framed by dramaturgical and optical techniques intended to produce a doubling of reality.
This thesis considers the Chancery for the US diplomatic mission to the Russian Federation in Moscow, a structure wrapped up in a history riddled with espionage, listening devices, and labyrinthine construction contracts. The reciprocal subversions performed across the Iron Curtain during the Cold War—most succinctly captured in MAD Magazine’s “Spy vs. Spy” comic strips— appear to have been recently reanimated. Through the interplay of illusionistic techniques drawn from the ecclesiastical chancel as well as Gestalt psychology, distortive methods maintain a dialectic of concealment and revelation in architecture. The stagecraft of statecraft becomes a platform upon which the possibility of built form is projected through the production of doubt.