|Design excellence in London, version 1.0|
If you're like me, you just can't get enough discussion of U.S. embassy design, whether of the Standard or the Excellent version, the plain or the fancy.
So we're in luck that C-SPAN has posted video of the full 3-plus hours of last Thursday's House Oversight Committee hearing on new embassy design practices. C-SPAN even includes a handy index with the video so you can skip ahead to your favorite parts of the dialog between the committee members and the panel.
My favorite moment came at the 55-minute mark, when Chairman Issa pointed out that the current chancery office building in London "was designed by the man that designed Dulles Airport, that it was built during a time in which design excellence, gorgeous buildings, were in [vogue with the State Department]."
That designer of Dulles Airport was the famed architect Eero Saarinen, and he did London at the height of the 1950s Modernist era. That era was the last architectural Golden Age when the State Department hired top-tier architects to do signature buildings. Yes, indeed, it was the Good Old Days to which the critics of Fortress Embassies look back with nostalgia now. Saarinen's design is still so beloved by fans of Modernism that there is a strong movement to preserve the building in all its original glory after the USG moves out.
So, the old building in London is a left-over from the previous age of excellent embassy design? And it's now so unsuitable that we want to replace it? Okay, I know it's old and everything, but still, that doesn't bode well for the present initiative for design excellence.