Displacement: Designing for Diplomacy

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Embassies have represented a reciprocal exchange of sovereign territory between countries since the establishment of the United States. They serve not just as administrative platforms, but also as symbols of the ongoing exchange between host and guest nations. As the United States expanded its global reach during the 20th century, the embassies it built became optimistic, architectural expressions of our nation’s democratic values. 

With deadly attacks on US embassies in Beirut, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, American diplomatic missions moved away from the hearts of major cities toward greenfield sites in suburban or rural settings. Individually tailored buildings gave way to standard designs, under the belief that they best addressed the security shortcomings of the earlier structures. Starting in 2010, the State Department returned to design as a tool for the expression of American values. Under the leadership of Lydia Muniz, former director of the Department of State's Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, the US government initiated a program of excellence, enlisting architects to take up the challenge of combining security and transparency through innovation. Projects have included embassies in Beirut by Morphosis, in Ankara by Ennead Architects, in New Delhi by WEISS/MANFREDI, and in Seoul by SHoP Architects. During this conversation, these architects will reflect on their efforts to ensure excellence in diplomatic facilities and provide their views on the future of diplomatic design.

Thom Mayne, FAIA, Principal, Morphosis
Christopher Sharples, AIA, Principal, SHoP Architects
Bill Sharples, AIA, Principal, SHoP Architects
Richard Olcott, FAIA, Design Partner, Ennead Architects
Marion Weiss, FAIA, Principal, WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism
Michael Manfredi, FAIA, Principal, WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism

 Lydia Muniz, Former Director, Bureau of Overseas Building Operations, US Department of State

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