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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

The Guardian

’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

impressive structure—not

Fortress America.

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.