The Department of State’s Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) has shortlisted six design teams for the new U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. The project is part of OBO’s Excellence in Diplomatic Facilities initiative in which seeks to provide safe and functional facilities that represent the best in American architecture.
Although the thirty-nine firms who responded to the challenge all presented a “high level of design excellence, innovative site and landscape designs, and strong sustainability experience,” only these six practices will make it through to the competitions second round:
The Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) has shortlisted four design firms for the major rehabilitation of the Athens Chancery project. Protected as an architectural landmark, the mid-century modern building was originally designed by the famed Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius with the consulting architect Pericles A. Sakellarios.
The shortlisted firms are:
The Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) has selected five design teams in a worldwide Architecture/Engineering Design Services solicitation to rehabilitate/renovate facilities that “represent American values and the best in American architecture, engineering, technology, sustainability, maintainability, art, culture, and construction execution.”
“The works of our artists, architects, and preservationists provide us with another language of diplomacy. A transcendent language that allows us to convey values that are at once uniquely American yet speak to all of humanity. Increasingly in this world, art and architecture help us maintain our sense of openness and liberation.” — Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, April 12, 2010
An embassy is much more than a building or a work of architecture; it functions as a symbolic representation of countries’ relationships to one another. It represents the universal language of diplomacy – “communicating values and ideals, extending well beyond any moment in time”. An embassy has the difficult task of representing two diametrically opposed concepts: security and openness. The former typically overpowers the latter in importance, which is most probably why when we think of foreign embassies, it conjures up images of stately monolithic buildings surrounded by tall fences and menacing guards or “bunkers, bland cubes, lifeless compounds”, according to Tanya Ballard Brown of NPR’s All Things Considered.
More on the design excellence of embassies after the break…
According to a statement by the US Embassador in the UK, KieranTimberlake´s design “meets the goal of creating a modern, welcoming, timeless, safe and energy efficient embassy for the 21st century.”
Regarding the “safety” issues, KT’s design shows an interesting solution away from embassies from the early 90s surrounded by large walls with no urban considerations, using a park with a pond instead. The Embassy is no only an icon, but an urban piece “honoring the English tradition of urban parks and gardens as the context for many civic buildings”, connecting the Thames embankment to the new pedestrian way to the south.
“Viewed from the north at the proposed plaza, the embassy grounds will provide the prospect of an open park, a landscape of grasses rising gracefully to the new embassy colonnade, with the required secure boundaries incised into the hillside and out of view. Instead of a perimeter-walled precinct, the site to the north and south is a welcoming urban amenity, a park for the city that fuses the new embassy to the city of London. Alternatives to perimeter walls and fences are achieved through landscape design.”
The pure geometry of the cube is fragmented by a highly specialized ETFE (ethylene-tetrafluroethylene, used in several recent buildings) facade optimized to shade interiors from east, west and south sun while admitting daylight and framing large open view portals to the outside. If you take a closer look to the renderings from the inside you will notice that the ETFE foils include thin photovoltaic film that intercepts unwanted solar gain in certain angles. The scrim also renders the largely transparent façades visible to migratory birds to discourage bird-strikes.
More information and renderings about the Embassy after the break. I also recommend to read our interview with Stephan Kieran.