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Report:  Design for Diplomacy – New Embassies for the 21st Century

In July 2008, the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) asked the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to provide assistance in reviewing the manner in which new U.S. embassies are planned and designed.

In response, in September 2008 the AIA formed the 21st Century Embassy Task Force, comprising nationally recognized architects, engineers, and landscape architects familiar with embassy design; former ambassadors; and representatives of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD), the Foundation for Art and

Preservation in Embassies (FAPE), the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), and OBO.

The primary goal of the Task Force was to prepare a report for OBO that provided recommendations on:

    • Ensuring that all diplomatic facilities meet the security requirements as identified by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) to protect all Embassy personnel

    • Integrating security and design excellence to create high-performance diplomatic facilities

    • Providing American taxpayers with the best value for diplomatic facilities.

Through the report, Design for Diplomacy - New Embassies for the 21st Century, the AIA and the 21st Century Task Force made a series of policy suggestions, but ultimately recommended that the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations adopt Design Excellence as a mandate to advance a new generation of secure, high performance embassies and diplomatic facilities that support the conduct of American diplomacy.

OBO Takes on AIA’s Call for a Design Excellence Program

On April 14, 2010, the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations announced their intent to create a Design Excellence Program for U.S. Embassy and Consulate Facilities and unveiled a set of Guiding Principles to serve as the foundation of a comprehensive effort that will include the development of a Strategic Plan which will, in turn, be the basis for OBO Design Excellence Policies.

Legislative Action

Senator John Kerry also took the AIA’s report to heart and on April 25, 2010, introduced the Embassy Design and Security Act, a ground-breaking piece of legislation that for the first time recognizes the vital role building design can play in transforming America’s embassies into high performance structures throughout the world. 


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