Back to News
December 7, 2023

Architecture for diplomacy: let's talk about it

For more than 20 years Hollingsworth Pack has supported the US Department of State Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations in their mission of facilitating diplomacy through architecture. 

Diplomatic architecture is an evolving field that changes and adapts itself to the new needs of society. 

Generally speaking, diplomatic architecture includes the design and construction of embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic facilities, as well as the use of public spaces to foster cultural exchange. Its goal is to promote diplomatic relations and facilitate international cooperation. 

For Hollingsworth Pack a key element of this field is the interdisciplinary character of projects: architecture, urban planning, diplomacy, and international relations join forces to create spaces that support and enhance diplomatic efforts in a context of culture and geography that by definition is not American. 

Architecture for diplomacy is often considered to be culturally important for a country as it can serve as a powerful symbol of its national identity, values, and aspirations. By designing and building diplomatic facilities that reflect the country's cultural heritage and traditions it can communicate its message to the international community and convey a sense of pride and confidence.

But how to convey a sense of confidence and simultaneously promote social inclusion?

Designing embassies in the 21st century is a difficult process that involves a wide range of considerations and stakeholders.

To provide a space that can be used seamlessly by all the users’ groups is one of the biggest challenges of this field. How to promote an image of social inclusion while respecting safety and security demands?

The complexity of this task, and many others, is admirably solved by countless teams of experts working to improve the social implications of their projects by creating spaces that are not only functional and sustainable but also reflect the cultural identity of the country they represent in that context of the host country. 

Great examples of diplomatic architecture are the US Embassy in London by Kieran Timberlake, completed in 2017, adding sustainability to the building envelope through a green roof, rainwater harvesting, and solar panels, as well as the Danish Embassy in New Delhi by Vilhelm Lauritzen, inaugurated in 2019, where Northern Indian context and classic Danish modernism coexist.

Famous architects who have contributed to the advancement of architecture for diplomacy in the 20th and 21st centuries include Eero Saarinen, Zaha Hadid, Oscar Niemeyer, Walter Gropius, Sir Norman Foster, Jean Nouvel, Kisho Kurokawa, Fumihiko Maki, Henning Larsen, I.M. Pei and Thom Mayne of Morphosis. 

In summary, designing a diplomatic building is a complex process that involves balancing a range of competing priorities such as security, sustainability, cultural sensitivity, and architectural expression.  Hollingsworth Pack´s global presence has given the opportunity to work with 15 nation states in a total of 74 host countries, contributing to the missions of diplomacy.  

If you are interested in a collaboration in diplomatic architecture, let’s talk more about it. 

More journals from Copenhagen

Read the latest news