Page 21 - Foreign Service Journal - December 2012

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Jane C. Loefer is an architectural historian and author of
Te Architecture of Diplomacy: Building America’s Embassies
reissued in an updated version in 2011. She has published numerous
articles on related subjects and collaborated on books, including
Otium, A Diplomatic Home
, published in 2012 by Embassy Oslo.
In addition, she has testifed as an expert witness before Congress,
appeared regularly on panels and broadcasts, and published op-eds
in the
New York Times
and the
Washington Post
. Te State Depart-
ment has acknowledged her contributions to its mission with a
distinguished Public Service Award and a Recognition Award from its
Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations. Ms. Loefer holds a Ph.D.
in American civilization fromTe George Washington University, and
is afliated with the Honors College at the University of Maryland.
lence” initiative that embraces all elements of embassy construc-
tion—from location to architect selection, design, engineering
and building technology, sustainability and long-termmainte-
nance needs.
Te new program sees innovation as an opportunity to
enhance security, still the top priority. It is the State Depart-
ment’s frst major statement of design policy since 1954 when, at
the height of the Cold War, it greatly expanded its building pro-
gram and turned to modern architecture to convey the optimism
and future orientation of democracy.
What happened to bring about this dramatic shift to improve
America’s foreign presence? Could it have happened without the
SED, which seemed inevitable but proved so inadequate? What
does the new programmean? Will more attacks on U.S. diplo-
matic facilities undermine or add impetus to the program? And
how is it linked to broader foreign policy issues?
To begin to answer these questions, one has to frst under-
stand the rationale for the “fortress” model—an expedient
solution to an urgent problem, to be sure, but one that narrowly
defned an embassy as a protected workplace and overlooked its
larger representational role.
Attacks Lead to Stringent Security Standards
In the aftermath of the 1983 terrorist attacks on the U.S.
embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, a bipartisan commis-
sion chaired by retired Navy Admiral Bobby R. Inman was the
frst to call for major embassy improvements. Inman called
for an array of new security standards to be applied regardless
of location. Tese included the 100-foot setback, selection of
10-to-15-acre sites, blast-resistant construction, high perimeter
walls, rigorous public access controls and (almost) windowless
The design for the new Embassy Jakarta by Davis Brody Bond
Architects and Planners, shown opposite, embodies many of
the principles of the “Design Excellence” initiative. The project
is expected to be completed in 2017. In contrast, Embassy Quito
(Yost, Grube, Hall, 2008), above, is a Standard Embassy Design
that features the prison-like look and high perimeter wall that is
typical of SED structures.