Bidoun, Fall 2007. Ryan Neiheiser

Rethinking the traditional architectural vocabulary of democracy and questioning the tendency to design embassies with overdetermined boundaries between “us” and “them” (from the early glass pavilions in a park to the walled compounds of today), this project for a new US embassy in Baghdad adopts the language of a snagged weave. Rather than secrecy through distance, it attempts diplomacy through closeness. Yet the project recognizes that integration can also be understood as a kind of infiltration. Although the snag results from a foreign disturbance, a line between the foreign snag and the local fabric is impossible to locate. The embassy program is divided into six distinct program strands: the embassy, the consulate, political and economic offices, housing, USAID, and exchange (providing local aid, services, and promoting unofficial dialogue). Taking an ideal democracy as a model, these distinct parts add up to a recognizable, but never fully comprehensible whole. The building can never be seen in its entirety, instead demanding the active participation of the viewer to move through and around, relating the current partial view to the previous views. The identities of the individual parts are never subsumed by the whole, yet each part is integrally tied to the others. At the overlap of these six program strips are agonistic spaces, sites of difference and contradiction around tasks of aid distribution, policy debate, media interaction, and cultural exchange.