In 1927, when the United States and Canada established their first relatively unpretentious legations in Ottawa and Washington, no one imagined how quickly they would become functionally and symbolically obsolete. By the end of World War II, both countries were seeking to expand their office space, and by the late 1960s, they were looking for ways to build new buildings. Each understood that the challenge was how most effectively to enhance the building's diplomatic presence. At the same time, planners in both capitals saw these projects as means of reinforcing the city's governmental core and promoting urbanity and civic identity. They encouraged the two governments to choose conspicuous downtown locations of great symbolic significance. Arthur Erickson designed the Canadian Embassy (1981-89), which stands on Pennsylvania Avenue at the foot of Capitol Hill, and David M. Childs headed the team at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill that designed the U. S. Embassy (1994-99) for an equally prominent site across from Ottawa's Parliament. Both architects faced daunting challenges: how to create a multipurpose structure to accommodate an array of different government offices; how to make a bold statement of national identity while showing respect for the host city and its urban design; and how to reconcile openness and accessibility with ever-increasing demands for security. This study examines architecture's role in public diplomacy and uses the two chanceries to explore the process through which design becomes purposeful civic achievement.
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Research Article| December 01 2002
Washington and Ottawa: A Tale of Two Embassies
Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (2002) 61 (4): 480–507.
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Isabelle Gournay, Jane C. Loeffler; Washington and Ottawa: A Tale of Two Embassies. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 1 December 2002; 61 (4): 480–507. doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/991870
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