THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
a visitor comes to visit the
U.S. ambassador to the U.K.
in his new office, I want
that visitor to exclaim how
wonderful it was to come
to the new embassy, how
the security was efficient
and reassuring but not
overwhelming, and how he
or she recognized the tra-
ditional welcoming nature of the American people as they made
their way into the building that represents the United States.
In the designs they submitted, the three architectural firms
competing for the project appeared to take to heart the advice
about making the embassy a secure yet welcoming place. Within
the strict guidelines demanded by the State Department’s
Bureau of Diplomatic Security, all three presented designs that
were open and welcoming in different ways. All three used inno-
vative architectural and landscaping features to achieve security
I was standing beside James Timberlake (partner in the Phila-
delphia firm KieranTimberlake) at the 2010 unveiling of their
winning design when
’s architectural critic asked
him, “Where is the fence?”
The response: “There is no
fence.” The design success-
fully integrated security
into a welcoming and
Security of our diplo-
matic facilities is, of course,
a fraught topic, and will
only become more so with the recent terrorist attacks in London.
But there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and there is no perfect
security. Our diplomats know that their workplace can never
be completely invulnerable, and they accept that they run risks
in the normal course of living and working around the world.
Risk can be managed effectively with the right combination of
physical security, intelligence cooperation and good judgment.
But security must never be the only objective. Our diplomatic
missions need to reflect the open society they represent.
The innovative design of our new presence in London will
need to be combined with well-thought-out training for staff on
how best to welcome visitors in a secure and friendly manner. Too
often, the design of our human interactions at embassy entrances
The old U.S. Embassy London on Grosvenor Square, viewed from Brook Street.
The building will supply
and reuse its own water.
It will not only conserve power
but also be able to sell surplus
energy to its neighbors.