Monday, October 24, 2011


Security: The Architecture of Locked Doors


The embassy building stands as a representative of the nation it serves. The design for US embassies, however, has greatly concerned itself with increasing the level of security. This has compromised the design potential for architects of even the highest respect.

The Site.

International relationships present themselves physically as embassies on foreign soil. They are to establish and maintain relationships with their host countries and be a pleasant addition to the context they inhabit. Respectful, expressive, without domineering tendencies.

The Situation.

The Cold War, the involvement of the US in Vietnam, as well as other military-based tensions gave way to the increased paranoia of the country as a whole. In regards to embassies, it was thought that any embassy became a target for attack. New rules and regulations were enacted in an attempt to prevent major damage in the event such an attack would take place. Beginning in the late 1970’s, the physical presence of US embassies began to change. Locking doors and building planters for protection were the first steps taken towards fortifying the structure. 1985 brought about the Report of the Secretary of State’s Advisory Panel on Overseas Security, later known as the Inman Report; a result from the embassy bombing in Beirut. A series of new security provisions were to be instituted into embassy design. Among them were 100-foot setbacks and 7-foot high perimeter walls. The mid-1990’s saw the Standard Embassy Design guidelines. Embassies began to take the form of standardized fortresses whose siting was difficult and awkward. Since then the ability of architects to design these structures in a manner that embodies the essence of what an embassy should be (and was) has been greatly threatened. It stands to question whether good design is possible given the high security demands.

Possible Case Studies.

US Embassy in London.

-Winning over better proposals from Morphosis and Richard Meier, KieranTimberlake’s design was better geared toward the SED regulations.



American Embassies: Not Always Fortresses


U.S. Embassy Architecture: Breaking the Diplomatic Ties That Bind Design


Diplomacy through Architecture



1 comment:

  1. When physical attacks were the greatest threat to our cities/buildings we used to build our environment with thick, impenetrable walls – they were difficult to breach, but more importantly, they looked impenetrable. Today, it seems the greatest threat is to appear defensive. It’s not that we have ceased to be defensive... http://www.portigal.com/blog/anti-skateboard-devices-on-the-embarcadero/
    The part of this territory that could be fruitful is the distance between what we do and what we say - the diplomacy of the how...