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The U.S. Military versus Cultural Wealth

By David Swanson

If you build a big enough empire with enough enormous military bases in enough countries, sooner or later you're going to displease just about everyone. The list of those unhappy with recently proposed expansions of imperial outposts includes artists and architects.

In the tradition of the trashing of the artistic treasures of Iraq, the U.S. military has set its sites on the Italian Renaissance. Many Americans are familiar with the work of Andrea Palladio.

After all, Thomas Jefferson based the design of his home on Palladio's villas, and there's a picture of it on every American nickel. Even the White House is a rip-off of a Palladian villa.

Most of Palladio's best work is still standing in and around the Italian town of Vicenza. The building in the middle of town with the green roof is known as the Basilica Palladiana.

Palladio's most famous house, the Villa Rotonda, sits just outside of town. The town and many of the surrounding villas are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Looks idyllic, right? Then you probably don't work for the U.S. military.

When the Pentagon looks at Vicenza, it thinks: "This would be a perfect place for a bigger military base."

Against the passionate protest of the majority of the citizens of Vicenza, whose outrage recently (temporarily) drove the Prime Minister of Italy out of office, our very own U.S. Department of "Defense" plans a massive expansion of its existing facilities, with a huge new base a mile and a half from the Basilica.

Villa Caldogno (on the World Heritage list) is only a few hundred meters away from Dal Molin, the proposed new base.

The people of Vicenza aren't happy.

Here is an excellent article about the proposed expansion, and here's an excerpt:

"The proposed solution to the battle of the bulge is to shoe-horn a new military facility into the existing small civilian airport called Tommaso Dal Molin, which sits on a precious piece of green space just a mile and a half northwest of the town's historic center. The project would also possibly involve enlarging some of the existing roads that run between Caserma Ederle on the southeast and Dal Molin to the northwest. The proposed plans mean, therefore, that the already dense population of this city would increase by almost 1.7%. They would also inherit a new US air base that is a mere 25-minute leisurely walk from the Basilica Palladiana, which sits in the heart of the city. In the photo below, which was taken from Monte Berico on the south side of town just above the train station on a very rare day when you can clearly see the Alps, the Basilica Palladiana is the building in the bottom right-hand corner with the large green roof, while Dal Molin is the runway in the one large patch of green in the middle. Expanding the airport here, then, would be far worse than building a major military airbase one and half miles from the most historic piece of real estate in the US. As such it represents a serious callousness on the part of the US to local conditions and thus to justice itself."

Will those who care about beauty and culture in our world stand for this?

Will we stand for the expansion of the U.S. empire in other towns and cities around the world that each have their own beauty?


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Right near the Rotunda is a villa with a great Tiepolo cycle and in the town itself is a famous Palladian theater. There is art everywhere in other villas nearby. It's the perfect place for noise and pollution from a huge expanded US air force base. Better yet, why not throw the town down and put in an extended parking lot? We definitely have muttonheads in the military.

The Teatro Olimpico was designed for the Vicenza Accademia Olimpica to stage theatrical performances. Modeled by Palladio after both his studies of several ancient theaters and his own illustrations of classical theater design, made for Daniele Barbaro's translation of Vitruvius, this is a lone surviving Renaissance theater.

Inside an exterior brick box, the elaborate wooden theater interior is a half circle of steep tiers of seats (wood covered benches) facing a rectangular proscenium stage. A wooden colonnade with cornice and figures above circles the top of the seats. The ceiling plane is undifferentiated and was later painted blue, suggesting an open sky above the theater.

The walls and ceiling of the proscenium are elaborately articulated with architectural details and statues, made of wood and plaster. A central arched opening dominates the back wall, flanked by two smaller doorways. Through these openings, elaborate stage sets of streets angle backstage, a triad through the central opening and single streets through each side. These sets, designed later by Scamozzi, use techniques of tilting the floors and contracting the angle between the street walls and the heights of their building facades to make foreshortened streets in perspective. Source.

Why do we think that we are entitled to keep a military presence in another country? If Italy or Russia, or Germany, or Korea, wanted to put a military base in the U.S.A. there would be outrage after outrage....Why do we think we are different?
Not only shouldn't there be any expansion, but thee ought to be a complete wi9thdrawal from this and all other Military bases around the World....We could then pretend to be "Good Guys"...or at least start to be...

So famous the world over and beloved by Jefferson, Palladian windows actually first appeared in 128 AD in Ephesus in The Temple of Hadrian.

It should be remembered that art and architecture are subjects at West Point, so expansion and destruction are deliberate, when they occur. Remember, the museum in Bagdhad was left unprotected during the US invasion,and a tank was just on the next block doing nothing. The looters only took the prime, valuable pieces. This was reported by the curator - the thieves had planned the theft.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Palazzo Chiericati is a Renaissance palace in Vicenza (northern Italy), designed by Andrea Palladio. Since 1855 it has been the Museo Civico ("Town Museum") and, more recently, the City's art Gallery. Like the other Palladian buildings of Vicenza, it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site The Palladian Villas of the Veneto.

The Palazzo was commissioned to Palladio by count Girolamo Chiericati. The architect started the works in 1550, some further work was completed under the patronage of Chiericati's son and heir Valerio. However, the palazzo was not finally completed until circa 1680, possibly by Carlo Borella.

The palace was built in an area called "piazza dell'Isola" ("Island Square", current Piazza Matteotti), as in that period formed an islet surrounded by the Retrone and Bacchiglione streams, and which had housed the wood and cattle market. To protect the structure from the frequent floods, Palladio designed it on an elevated position: the entrance could be accessed by a triple Classic-style staircase.

The palace's principal facade composes three bays, the central bay projecting slightly. The two terminating bays have logge on the piano nobile level, while the central bay is closed. The façade has two superposed orders of columns, Doric order on the lower level with Ionic above. The roofoline is decorated by statuary.

Professor James Beck has written A Work of Art's Bill of Rights. It's mainly a protest against overcleaning, which is at epidemic levels, but it could also apply to Vicenza, City of Art, as the preservation of its atmosphere.

Just a couple of minor corrections:
Valmarana instead of Valmorana and Rotonda instead of Rotunda.

from Vicenza

Good article on the history of the town and I definitely agree on the callousness of the US Military. But the question that popped into my head was not, "Why is our military full of cultural muttonheads?" It was, "Why the HELL is the US expanding a military base in ITALY?" Do we have some new European enemy? Did we forget that the cold war is over? Or are we just wasting more taxpayer money to expand our empire and world domination?

Dear Anonymous,

My article was already too long to deal at length with all the questions you pose, which are excellent ones, but I did touch upon some of them indirectly ("the US spends too much...", "host-nation support..."). I suspect Italy has been chosen for at least 4 reasons:

1. Per the post WWII treaty, Italy is obligated to pick up a greater percentage of Host Nation Support (HNS) than negotiating with another country, so it will cost the US less.

2. The US military can use Italy as a recruitment tool, promising the soldiers beautiful places behind enemy lines.

3. Vicenza is located just south of the Alps and the Italian peninsula juts out into the Mediterranean and is actually quite close to Africa and the Middle East. In a pinch the US could use the proposed air base at Vicenza as a launch pad against those regions, which is where future conflicts over oil and "radical Islam" are likely to erupt.

4. Vicenza already has Caserma Ederle and is only a 2-3 hour drive to Aviano -- the large American Air Force base. Thus there is a certain "synergy".

For more on all this from an Italian perspective, see here.


Paul Iversen

for Dear Leader's preemptive attacks into Syria and North Africa after the Iran War starts bogging down. All hail the Dear Leader!

The city of Vicenza, including 23 buildings by Palladio, together with 24 Palladian villas in the surrounding Veneto region have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site:

Founded in the 2nd century B.C. in northern Italy, Vicenza prospered under Venetian rule from the early 15th to the end of the 18th century. The work of Andrea Palladio (1508–80), based on a detailed study of classical Roman architecture, gives the city its unique appearance. Palladio's urban buildings, as well as his villas, scattered throughout the Veneto region, had a decisive influence on the development of architecture. His work inspired a distinct architectural style known as Palladian, which spread to England and other European countries, and also to North America.

Someone in the Pentagon? Who specifically?


I leap tall military bases in a single bound. I run faster than a speeding Congressperson. I'm a bird..... I'm a plane..... I'm SUPERHEROINE LINDA!! My Superheroine powers of Boundless Love and Unlimited Forgiveness will save this gorgeous part of Italy. Heck, I've already made some GORGEOUS crop circles, Kreutzenlichten ("crosses of light" in German), AND get THIS.... MY prayers have HELPED liberate those 15 British sailors! HURRAY FOR ME.... HURRAY FOR YOU...... this planet is lucky to have me here...... AND did you know that ****FORGIVENESS LEADS TO HOT LOVE MAKING!!!!****** Not to mention, forgiveness probably helped release those 15 British people. Tony Blair, mate, you owe me a big heartfelt thank you. I love British accents, by the way. They remind me of shagging with Paul McCartney.

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