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Controversial embassy architecture, in Baghdad and London

January 5, 2009 |  1:26 pm

Eero Saarinen's American embassy

Lots of news all of a sudden related to embassy architecture: The U.S. government today officially opened its controversial new embassy inside Baghdad's Green Zone. Almost simultaneously, word broke of a nine-firm shortlist for a new American diplomatic HQ in London, where Eero Saarinen's 1960 original is at the center of a growing preservation battle.

According to Architects' Journal, the architects vying for the London job include Santa Monica's Thom Mayne, Richard Meier and Partners and a number of other heavyweights. (Only American firms were eligible.) One minor but happy surprise on the list is KieranTimberlake, a Philadelphia firm known for its research into prefab architecture and its very green work on the campus of the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., where soon-to-be First Daughters Sasha and Malia Obama enrolled this morning. (UPDATE: Sasha attends the Sidwell campus in Bethesda, Md., while her older sister, Malia, will go to the D.C. campus, where KieranTimberlake's middle school is located.)

Here's Hugh Pearman's plea for saving Saarinen's embassy, shown above. ("No question in my mind: this building must not be wrecked," he writes.)

And here's a piece I wrote in 2007 after plans for our Baghdad embassy turned up online.

-- Christopher Hawthorne

Photo: American Embassy, London, by Flickr user tickety-boo

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