The Design, Diplomacy, and Safety of U.S. Embassies

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Today marks one week since Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed at the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and since that time, anti-American protests have spread to Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Iraq.

Although these riots are clearly spread out among many countries geographically, they are mostly contained to one specific spot: the American Embassy. Now, as American Embassies are supposed to offer a sense of stability and safety for their host countries and Americans in the region, they are currently doing the exact opposite. 

Barbara Bodine was the U.S. ambassador to Yemen from 1997 to August 2001, and Kurt Volker was the U.S. ambassador to NATO from July 2008 to May 2009.

Even before the war on terror began — and as recently as this past week — we’ve witnessed U.S. embassies and consulates in foreign nations targeted with protests and violent attacks.

In the midst of the upheaval, average citizens might ask, “Why is this happening?” or “How can we stop it?” But for architects like Andre Houston, the more pressing question is “Will the building withstand the worst?”

Houston is the architect who designed the U.S. embassy in Cairo. In the process, he had to consider safety, aesthetics, and much more.