Fortress America: How the U.S. designs its embassies

Egyptians protest in fromt of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Egyptians protest in fromt of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Khalil Hamra/AP

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo is an unusual building.

For one thing, it’s over 10 stories high -- most embassies are much shorter. For another, it’s right in the middle of downtown Cairo, in a posh area called Garden City, a stone’s throw from the Nile and a short walk from Tahrir Square.

On normal days, this prominent location underscores that the U.S. is an engaged and important presence in Egyptian affairs. This past week, it made the building a quickly accessible assembly point for protesters and the site of a violent stand-off.

Issues like these are the subject of serious debate in the world of embassy design, where architects try to construct buildings that will, in good times and bad, represent American values while they withstand the force of bombs. For the people who build embassies, that’s a difficult balance, and one that has shifted many times in the last few decades between two competing schools of thought: isolation and civic engagement. 

Read more at The Atlantic Cities.

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