Diplomatic Design

Diplomatic design: New US embassies make an architectural statement

CNN, May 5, 2017

Later this year, the new US Embassy in London will open, a giant glass cube on a formerly industrial site south of the River Thames.

The embassy, which cost a record $1 billion, provoked controversy almost from the moment it was announced. Some critics complained the design, by the firm KieranTimberlake of Philadelphia, is too forbidding. (The embassy sits behind a ring of ponds and gardens, essentially a modern moat.)

Members of Congress balked at the price tag. At a hearing in 2015, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican and chairman of the House oversight committee, slammed the government’s construction process as mismanaged, resulting in a building with an “opulent-looking” glass façade that favors aesthetics over security.

Can a building that meets rigorous security standards also be beautiful, and if so, at what cost? Modern embassy design revolves around this question.

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