Tonight I’ll be hosting the next Dwell Conversation, Designing Diplomacy, a panel discussion on the intersection of design and diplomacy at the Finnish Embassy in Washington DC. As easily one of the most impressive and forward-looking embassies in town, the Finnish Embassy is an ideal place to discuss American embassies abroad, foreign missions on American soil, and what the two disciplines have to say to one another.
I used to live in Washington DC, and one of my favorite parts of the city is the embassies. I was always fascinated by how nations chose to represent themselves architecturally, be it the manor house style of the British Embassy or the clean modernism of the House of Sweden to the concrete planes of the Cote d’Ivoire. But Washington is unique in that nations are largely free to build as they please with little fear of rocket-propelled grenades or truckloads of explosives crashing through their doors.American embassies in Dar es Salaam, Athens, and Nairobi have all been targets for attack, and with instability par for course in many parts of the world, the security of our diplomatic corps is paramount. Though I would love for the modern American embassies erected just after WWII by the likes of Ralph Rapson, Eero Saarinen, and Edward Durrell Stone to be par for the course, a balance must be struck between security and openness, diplomacy and defense.
I’ll be joined by Jane Loeffler, an architectural historian at the University of Maryland and author of the first rate The Architecture of Diplomacy: Building America’s Embassies, and Washington Post Culture Critic and Dwell contributor Philip Kennicott. I’ve got a call in to the State Department’s Overseas Building Office to see if they’ll allow someone from Foggy Bottom to join as well. There’s also a good chance that Finnish Ambassador Pekka Lintu will say a few words as well. All told, this is going to be one of the better design events of the season in Washington DC, taking both the local and global view of how we design diplomacy. Get tickets here.