Via dei Villini 9 – Rome
Via Villini takes its name from the first houses that were built after the park of Villa Patrizi was parceled out in 1888, in the area of Normentano. These buildings were constructed in the first decade of the twentieth century and the house at number 9 has an eclectic style, typical of the period. It is composed of thirty-seven rooms distributed between the basement floor, mezzanine, first and second floor. The villa narrowly escaped the bombardment of 19 March 1944 which burnt down the nearby Hungarian embassy; in 1959 it was purchased by the cinema owner Giovanni Amati, who lived there with his family. In 1980 Amati put the villa up for sale and was negotiating this transaction with the Government of Thailand when he was killed by a car on 30 June of that year while crossing Via Nomentana, just a few metres away from his home. Two days before the tragic accident, an auction had been held in Via dei Villini for the sale of the precious furniture and objects of Villa Amati. In 1986, the Amati heirs sold the building to the Somali Democratic Republic and the legation moved from Viale Tripoli, where it had been housed till then.
The last diplomatic functions carried out by the Embassy date to January 1991. The building then housed some diplomats and embassy employees, while some consular functions, such as the issuing of certificates and passport renewal were maintained in the Consulate in Via dei Gracchi 305. In 1998 the Italian government decided to no longer recognise the representativeness of the Embassy, but once it became apparent that this would create difficulties for the Somali community resident in Italy, it once again accredited the ambassador Yusuf Ali Osman and three other diplomats. The building in Via dei Villini has progressively deteriorated, due to difficulties in carrying out repairs, and the water, lighting and gas supplies were soon cut off due to non-payment. In time, the former employees of the Embassy were joined by homeless Somali citizens, often asylum seekers, accommodated both within the building and in the small garden around it. In March 2011, following the report of a gang rape, the building was evacuated, and its doorways walled up.
60 Portland Place – London
The road in which the building is situated takes the name of the Dukes of Portland, who have owned the area for five generations. In 1879 the vast area was inherited by the sister of the last duke, widow of Baron Howard De Walden. The ownership of the entire area therefore took the name Howard de Walden Estate, which it still retains today. The houses in Portland Place were build from 1778 to designs by James and Robert Adam. The first occupant of no.60 was Sir Robert Ladbroke, a wealthy jeweller who was also for several years the Mayor of London. In 1805 the building was purchased by Henry Bonham, son of the founder of the auction house of the same name; he left in around 1810, when it was purchased by Richard Jennings. On his death in 1888 the building was inherited by his son, Richard Edward. Shortly after the turn of the century, the building was purchased by Lawrence Gaskell, who sold it in 1910 to Arthur Eustace Seymour Guinness, a member of the famous brewery family. Guinness lived at no.60 Portland Place with his wife Wilhelmine and a household of 16 servants. In 1918 the property was acquired by a financier of German origin named Leopold Rosenheim, who held it until 1923. Later the building housed a number of medical surgeries, including the rooms of a dental surgeon, and between 1928 and 1966 it provided accommodation for medical specialists. At the end of the 1960s the building was purchased by the Somali Democratic Republic to house its Embassy in the United Kingdom. It was abandoned by the legation at the end of the 1980s and in 1992 it was purchased by a private citizen who still lives there today.
66 Avenue Franklin D. Roosevelt – Brussels
Avenue Franklin Roosevelt was given its present name after the Second World War, up till 1945 it had been called Avenue des Nations. Plotted as a wide thoroughfare in the residential area of Solbosch, built in 1907 but in fact urbanized from the ‘20s on, Avenue des Nations soon became the road of diplomatic residences; in fact close to no.66 are those of the Austrian, Saudi Arabian and Japanese representatives. The building in Art Déco style, three storeys high with a basement garage, large attic and bow-window, was constructed by Léon Deladrière in 1929, from a design by the architect Joseph Halleux. The Somali Democratic Republic purchased it in 1979, moving its embassy there from Rue de l’Abbaye.
With the outbreak of disorders in Somalia, the diplomats and embassy staff abandoned the building, which remained unoccupied for about ten years, exposed to serious damage and risk of structural collapse, both of the building itself as well as neighbouring ones. This situation remained until January 2001, when a group of foreign citizens without Belgian residency permits occupied the building, founding the Ambassade Universelle, with the support of a network of Belgian citizens. In June 2003 the French police stopped a similar attempt to occupy the Somali diplomatic buildings in Paris, at 22 Rue Dumont d’Urville, which had been closed for 12 years. In 2006, when this photograph was taken, the Ambassade Universelle housed up to thirty people at a time, had its own web site, its own flag and was issuing its own identity card for those living there. The Universal Embassy in Brussels has survived up to this day as a place of accommodation and currently houses about fifteen people without regular residence permits. The fact that foreign citizens are able to name Avenue F. Roosevelt as their place of residence enables them to obtain legal authorisation. Once they have obtained a residence permit, it is possible for them to look for their own lodgings and leave room for others. In September 2011 the Somali Government announced that it wanted to regain possession of the building.