|Image from U.S. Embassy Paramaribo's flicker page|
My good friends in the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations have opened another new U.S. embassy, this one in Paramaribo. It was designed by ZGF Architects and built by general construction contractor BL Harbert International, has 5,348 gross square meters of space, and cost $164 million.
From the press release, United States Dedicates New U.S. Embassy in Paramaribo, Suriname:
As a symbol of our enduring relationship with Suriname, Under Secretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy, U.S. Ambassador Edwin R. Nolan, and the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) Principal Deputy Director William Moser, alongside local officials, dedicated the new U.S. Embassy in Paramaribo on October 5.
The multi-building complex, on an 8-acre site in the Morgenstond development, includes a chancery, support buildings, and facilities for the Embassy community. The new complex will provide embassy employees with a safe, secure, and sustainable workplace.
-- snip --
Since 1999, as part of the Department’s Capital Security Construction Program, OBO has completed 133 new diplomatic facilities and has an additional 53 projects in design or under construction.
Did I read that last part correctly? OBO has 53 more projects currently in design or under construction? Maybe they mean under planning, design, or construction. But no matter. By placing 133 U.S. diplomatic missions in "safe, secure, and sustainable" new office buildings, and to have even low double digits more in some phase of replacement, means that OBO has turned a very significant corner. When you include the 22 new embassies that were built in the Inman program era, it means that, for the first time ever, a majority of our missions are now in Fortress Embassies. The norm for U.S. diplomatic facilities is now a Fortress, for better or worse.
How many U.S. diplomatic missions are there? If you use the most expansive list available, there are 294 of them, but that includes missions to international organizations. It's more like 274 if you count just the bilateral missions. Whichever number you use, more than half of them are in Fortresses.
That is a big, big, change from the situation at the time of the East Africa embassies bombings, when nearly all of our missions were highly vulnerable to attack. Those bombings prompted Congress to provide a continuing program of capital funding for new embassy construction. Unlike in the Inman '80s, when the steam ran out of Congress's interest in embassy security after a few years, this time they were as good as their word. So, yea for Congress!
|Image from diplomacy.state.gov|
There's the old embassy in Paramaribo, all flimsy ticky-tack and too close to the street. Not safe, secure, or sustainable. Or even especially functional. Good riddance.
Here's a travel tip. The city of Paramaribo is way more enjoyable than I would have guessed. The Dutch colonial influence and a lot of history make up for the miserable climate. Should you visit, be sure to take a trip out of town to see Joden Savanne, a World Heritage site located in the jungle but only a moderate drive outside the city. Starting in the 1630s, Sephardi Jews from the Netherlands, Portugal, and Italy attempted to resettle in part of Dutch Guiana and create a plantation economy along the Suriname River. It was one of the earliest attempts at European settlement in South America, and one of the few by a group fleeing persecution. It was ultimately unsuccessful, but the ruins of Joden Savanne's synagogue and cemetery have been preserved. Highly recommended.