Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Let a Hundred Buildings Grow, Let a Thousand Visa Applicants Contend"

I think that's how Chairman Mao put in in his Little Red Book. Or something close to that.

The State Department signed a deal with the People's Republic of China today, one that allows for the construction of a new U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou. The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations is scheduled to break ground on the new consulate complex a few months from now, and it goes without saying that the place will be all sensitive, welcoming, and culturally appropriate. If it's also a Fortress, well, it says in the press release that the new place will be a green and tastefully designed Fortress. China is the land that built the Great Wall, after all, and I doubt the typical Chinese visitor will be overawed by a measly perimeter fence.

Here's the press release, United States and People's Republic of China Officials Sign Conditions of Construction Agreement:

Patrick F. Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management, and Li Jinzhang, Vice Foreign Minister of Foreign Affairs for the People’s Republic of China, today signed a Conditions of Construction Agreement (COCA) in the Treaty Room at the U.S. Department of State.

The COCA will apply to new construction, expansion, renovation, and demolition undertaken by the United States and China of all or parts of their respective diplomatic sites in the United States and China. The agreement encompasses both embassies in Washington, D.C., and Beijing: the Chinese Mission to the United Nations and the five existing consulates in each country.

In China, the U.S. consulates covered under the agreement are located in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang, Chengdu and Wuhan. In the United States, the Chinese consulates are located in Houston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

U.S. Department of State and Chinese officials have been working on the provisions of the agreement for over two years.

The signed agreement will allow the Department of State to award a contract to construct a New Consulate Compound (NCC) in Guangzhou, China. The award of $164 million in contracts to construct the NCC will be to two companies: B.L. Harbert International, LLC of Birmingham, Alabama, will construct the main chancery and China Huashi Enterprises Company LTD, of Guangzhou, China will construct the public access buildings on the facility. The approximate cost of the entire project is $260 million. The compound was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LPP.

The state-of-the-art compound will consist of seven buildings including a main chancery building, a consular building, a warehouse with maintenance shops, a utility building, a Marine Security Guard quarters, and two compound access control facilities.

The centerpiece of the compound will be the four-story Consular office building featuring an interior “Great Hall” and 67 service windows for American citizen services, visa interviews and other applicants. The stone-clad building will be flooded with natural light and the Great Hall will feature natural wood wall and ceiling finishes as well as a Chinese granite floor.

The Guangzhou NCC will be arranged so that its seven buildings are separated from each other but tied together by gardens and courtyards demonstrating our commitment to green design and sustainability. Several of the buildings on the site will feature “green” roofs which with mitigate thermal loads by providing insulation, and will also minimize storm water run-off. Rooftops that are not green are covered in white stone to reflect heat and minimize heat gain.

The building facade and landscaped areas will be designed to integrate Chinese granite and other local stone with trees and other plantings from southern China.

The NCC will provide a secure, safe, and functional facility for approximately 300 employees who will work at the consulate. The 7.4 acre site is located at Tianhe District, Pearl River New Town development area in Guangzhou, China. The Groundbreaking will be in the fall of 2009 and the proposed completion date for the NCC is 2012-13.

The construction of a new consulate in Guangzhou reflects not only the importance of the United States-China bilateral relationship but also the breadth of issues in which our countries are engaged as this new century progresses.

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