|Image from KCCT website|
The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) has cut the ribbon on another new Fortress Embassy, this one in Malabo, and for the low, low, price of only $71 million. That's bargain basement.
I'm not being the least bit sarcastic about the cost. That has got to be the cheapest new embassy complex OBO has built in the last 10 years or more, especially considering that it includes staff housing, recreational facilities, and nearly self-sufficient site utilities, in addition to the chancery office building.
From the press release:
In an important symbol of our friendship and bilateral relationship with the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, Under Secretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy, and U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea Mark L. Asquino presided over the dedication of the new U.S. Embassy complex in Malabo today.
The new multi-building complex provides embassy employees with a safe, secure, and modern workplace. Situated on a 12.5-acre site in the Malabo Dos section of the capital, the complex includes a chancery building, a service/utility building, an access pavilion, Chief of Mission residence, Deputy Chief of Mission residence, staff housing, and a recreational facility.
The $71 million project incorporates numerous sustainable features to conserve resources and reduce operating costs, including an energy recovery unit that reduces the need for heating and cooling, water-conserving plumbing fixtures, and the use of regional and recycled materials. The new Embassy is registered with the U.S. Green Building Certification Institute as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) facility.
The facility was designed by Karn Charuhas Chapman and Twohey (KCCT) of Washington, DC, and constructed by Caddell Construction Co. of Montgomery, Alabama.
I'm delighted to read that the new embassy has an "access pavilion." A pavilion ... the very word makes me think of some pleasant little structure, maybe a nice shady place where the embassy staff can gather after work and have gin and tonics while they enjoy the spectacular equatorial sunset. But it's really just OBO's design excellence jargon for what is normally called a "compound access control" facility, i.e., a building for TSA-style screening of visitors.
Hey, OBO, people can see through that architectural happy talk. What's the point of trying to soften the reality of metal detectors and x-ray machines? Just call it a Compound Access Control facility, which is the official term. Even KCCT, your design firm on the Malabo project, uses that term in its own press releases for other embassy work.
KCCT, by the way, has made a specialty of overseas work for OBO and some other U.S. government agencies. That business model has been recession-proof, as described in a profile in a business journal last year:
D.C. architecture firm KCCT stays under the radar thanks to work on overseas embassies, consulates
The firm is now working on the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center for a possible 2,000-acre site near Fort Pickett in Blackstone, Va., where future diplomats will learn about terrorist tactics to help them prepare for working in dangerous locations abroad.
Over the past two decades, KCCT has come to specialize in designing overseas diplomatic facilities, creating 151 of those projects in 114 nations. Those commissions include 18 new embassy and consulate compounds in countries as varied as Angola, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Vietnam.
No post about Equatorial Guinea would be complete without noting how completely bat guano crazy the country once was. The place has settled down nicely since oil was discovered and business interests took over, but in the 1960s and '70s Malabo was very likely the worst place in Africa. More horrendous than even Idi Amin's Uganda.
Globetrotting With Uncle Sam has a fine blog post from last February about the recent history of Murder and Violence in Malabo:
Since 1968 when the country became independent, Equatorial Guineans have lived under two repressive dictators, both stemming from the same family. The current president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, is the nephew of the first president, Francisco, Marchias Nguema, who many considered insane and who on Christmas Day in 1975, has 150 coup plotters killed in the national stadium while a band played "Those Were the Days."
Shortly after independence, the State Department opened an embassy in Malabo and assigned two officers -- a charge' d'affairs and an administrative officer. The stress of opening an embassy on Fernando Po must have gotten to the Charge' as in 1971 he radioed the Embassy in nearby Yaounde, Cameroon to report that the Administrative Officer was involved in a communist plot. The embassy directed that the consul from Douala immediately charter a plane to Malabo and to take control of the embassy. Upon arrival he found that the charge' had killed the administrative officer in the embassy under very mysterious circumstances.
-- snip --
Equatorial Guinea has been the target for at least two coup attempts. The first, against former President Marchia, is said to be the setting for Fredrick Forseyth's book "The Dogs of War" which was made into a movie by the same name. The second, the so-called Wonga Coup, took place after oil was discovered. It was led by Simon Mann, an Englishman living in South Africa and the son of former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, is said to have helped finance this attempt.
Here's a first-person account of the 1971 incident by the FSO who was sent to Malabo in response to the chargé's bizarre radio calls and discovered the murder. The chargé' was convicted of murder in a U.S. court despite being irrational and possibly insane, and it has never been made clear what exactly happened and why. His son later attributed the murder to a mental breakdown brought on by the terrorizing conditions of Malabo in 1971, however, the son was far too young at the time to be in a position to really know that.
Forseyth's novel, "The Dogs of War," was extremely well-informed about the first coup attempt, and its plot anticipated the discovery of oil in Malabo, which discovery provided the motive for the later Wonga coup. The movie version of Dogs is worth watching - I found it on Netflix - for Christopher Walken's portrayal of the mercenary who goes a little crazy in a Malabo prison and then goes rogue on his London businessmen employers.
|Malabo inspired murder in the movies, too|
The movie had a happy ending. I mean, as happy as anything could get in Malabo in the days before the oil boom.