U.S. Embassy

Last week I was in Ottawa for a family funeral, staying in a hotel down the street from the U.S. embassy. The embassy, which succeeds a beautiful building designed by Cass Gilbert in the 1930s, was designed in 1999 by SOM in its post-modernist mode; limestone and stainless steel, neither modern nor really traditional. What struck me was the security barrier that was being built around the building—it looked strong enough to stop a Sherman tank. But this is Ottawa’s ByWard Market, not the Green Zone! Embassies are supposed to stand for national values; this one looks both forbidding and craven.

U.S. Embassy, Ottawa

2 Responses to U.S. Embassy

  • george holt says:

    Buildings that represented the United States abroad were once designed to evoke feelings of democracy and splendour .
    This building, while not particularly attractive or unattractive, could easily be mistaken for the suburban corporate headquarters of a small pharmaceutical company.
    If I didn’t know otherwise, the idea that this structure served a any kind of public purpose whatsoever would have never crossed my mind.
    The fact that this is actually an Embassy of the United States would have been my last guess.

  • Barton Jaques says:

    Just curious, are you other commenters Americans? Not a hostile question (much), but I’m trying to figure out geographic/cultural leanings would let one view that building as benign or boring. I can’t see the top “cupola” looks like anything but a concentration camp watchtower, designed by Cylons. This summer I was in Byward Market (visiting Ottawa, but worked there in late 80s), turned around and was gob-stopped by this Stalinist wall that I expect Stalin himself would find too creepy. Musta been easy to award the tender, maybe show the models in VR headsets, and choose the one that makes most Canadians freeze and mumble “oh fuck” under their breaths. NO COUNTRY could put up a frickin’ insult like that without consciously wishing the building to express “I am Ozymandias, big brother of big brothers! Look on my works, ye losers, and despair that we can read your smartphone emails over your shoulders from 2km no probs”.

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