Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Germans have a point

I have seen the new US Embassy in person in the later stages of construction. It is an embarassment. We are better - but in one of the most visible places in the world, we are seen cowering. That being said, the British Embassy isn't much better.

The best one in the area is the Russian Embassy.
"The new US Embassy in Berlin fits together with trends towards nostalgia in architecture -- it is the knights' castle that you can knock together with items from the home-improvement store," continues the FAZ's critic. "On the other hand, there is hardly a modern building -- with the exception of bunkers and pesticide testing centers -- which is so hysterically closed off from public space as this embassy. There is not a single window on the upper part of the building's south side. Here America shows itself as living a completely impenetrable, erratic bunker existence. One doesn't need to be as bitchy as certain angry passers-by, who postulated that the top part of the building must be home to the 'wellness and waterboarding' area, to be disturbed by such a lack of windows."

"If a building could stand with its arms crossed, it would look like this one," the paper writes. "Perhaps it is also typical of the first decade of the 21st century that public space, which once looked like a promise, is now perceived as a threat. The stranger, who was once the projection surface for the most beautiful collective and private fantasies, could be a terrorist, have AIDS or be transporting the plagues of globalization like factory closures, migration flows or bird flu."

"The American Embassy does not reflect the image of a country that was once a melting pot for immigrants from around the world, a place for new beginnings and reinventing oneself. The embassy represents a country which has been traumatized by 9/11 and the consequences of globalization -- a nation which is now so protected by armor that it can no longer see the world."
We should have done better - but with Congress that is more interested in selfish pork-barrel than showing the greatness of our nation to our friends, and an architectural Nomenclatura that derides and discourages beautiful buildings - this isn't shocking. Shame, but no shock.

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