Friday, July 17, 2009

Fortress Embassies, Round 1,791

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The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has released a report on the distressingly low state of contemporary U.S. diplomatic design, a report done for the State Department's Office of Overseas Building Operations (OBO). It calls upon the Guardians of High Culture to fight back against the Troglodytes of Government Security, those lowbrow types who supposedly gained the upper hand over Art and Beauty after the 1983 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Beirut and Kuwait and haven't given it up since.

See the Washington Post's review of the report here.

Although a lowbrow type myself, I look forward to a clash over this stuff since I think the AIA makes many good recommendations, particularly the ones about changing the site selection criteria that help to drive new embassies into remote locations, adopting performance-based rather than prescriptive security standards, and preserving rather than replacing historic or culturally significant properties. It's been my experience that those things can all be accommodated without giving up a high level of protection against mob violence and truck-bombs.

So let the clash begin! Bring it on, you architects!


eangela said...

One line in the Post review was rather funny, "...they serve only one interest: the security of our diplomats. It's an important function, but it is ancillary to the real work of diplomacy..."

A throwdown over this issue has been a long time coming, but still! I love it when my safety is described as ancillary :-)

I've never posted before, but I'm addicted to your posts on the HO. Keep up the good work!

TSB said...

Thanks, you're very kind.

I suppose it's correct that the security of our diplomats is only one interest among many, but we won't achieve any of our other interests unless we provide a reasonably safe environment for our people.

I have high hopes OBO and DS can resolve a lot of this conflict. The threat environment is too high today in too many critical places to dial down physical security. As Clinton said of welfare: "mend it, don't end it."