Reading an article about how official buildings should have be designed to be more friendly to the people (e.g. surrounding parks, allow visiting etc.), US Embassy in Romania was mentioned as an unfriendly example: very tall fences, quite a large area outside of it where you cannot walk or take pictures, lots of "do not cross" signs

The only picture I could find is this one.

Some random pictures for other US embassies across the World seem to indicate a more friendly design (e.g. Singapore, Berlin). A typical example of "friendly" official building is The Capitol.

I could not find an explanation for the US embassy architectural choice. Terrorism level is low and Romanians are pro-american people.

I know the embassy has moved quite recently (cannot remember the year), so I feel that the new building had to obey other constraints (e.g. security).

Question: Was there a shift about how US embassies should be constructed?

  • I strongly suggest StratFor podcasts. They had several episodes on embassy security (including the ebb and flow of more/less security with time and events)
    – user4012
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 16:04

1 Answer 1



Yes there was. You can see it in this fact sheet.

  • in 2002, in anticipation of increased funding, OBO developed a design prototype of a standard embassy, modeled after the recently completed U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda. That design incorporated all the Department’s security, code, and functional standards and requirements.
  • There had been discussions to further develop that design specifically for small, medium, and large missions but that did not materialize. instead, there was one standard design for a medium mission - approximately 7,400 gross square meters - and all other projects were merely variations of that medium design. in 2008, the Department developed the Standard Secure mini Compound for projects smaller missions
  • in 2011, a steering committee and working group that included representatives from all OBO disciplines performed a comprehensive review of the Bureau’s policies, processes and procedures and among them was the standard embassy design. Following, OBO rolled the successful elements as well as the lessons learned from the standard embassy design into a set of design standards.
  • These design standards include all the Department’s security, code, and functional standards and requirements. • The design standards provide comprehensive direction to designers, engineers, and construction professionals, enforce the same security and life safety requirements, yet allow for flexibility for mission function and climate. With an expansive portfolio that must accommodate a significant range of work, from facilities with 1 consular window to 109, this is significant in allowing OBO to deliver functional facilities. in 2002, in anticipation of increased funding, OBO developed a design prototype of a standard


In 1985 a document called Inman Report was released following a few attacks on USA overseas buildings. Some of its recommendations, known as the Inman Standards, ended up being the main guideline for USA embassy construction.

  • The United States must have complete control of their facilities overseas
  • To avoid penetration and assault, the location of these buildings is of great importance. It is no longer an asset to be on the busiest, more popular street
  • It is equally important to consider the co-location of these buildings as occupants whom the United States doesn't control or choose can pose a risk
  • Modern electronic and audio technology can make it hard to safeguard important information; therefore, proximity to other buildings plays a key factor
  • Many buildings cannot be upgraded so age, architecture, and the design of the building are a concern for the ability to defend penetration and assault
  • The old approach to business must be overturned to promote a new approach for overseas construction and adequate funding for the program

Using the Inman standards as a basis,...

the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act of 1999 requires five key security criteria, which address blast resistant design and construction:

  • 100-foot setbacks from streets and uncontrolled areas to protect buildings from blasts.
  • High-perimeter walls and fences that are difficult to climb, protecting the compound by deterring attackers on foot.
  • Anti-ram barriers to prevent vehicles from breaching the facility perimeter, getting close to the building, and detonating a bomb.
  • Blast-resistant construction techniques and materials, such as reinforced concrete and steel construction and blast-resistant windows.
  • Controlled access of pedestrians and vehicles at the perimeter of a compound.

Later following the increased risks to overseas buildings...

...in 2002 the State Department adopted the Standard Embassy Design, or SED, a boilerplate model that could be built fast anywhere in the world. It had small, medium, and large options, like a t-shirt.

The result: dozens of new embassies and consulates completed quickly, but lacked individual character. The culmination of the SED was the massive, heavily fortified embassy in Baghdad, finished in 2009.

The depressing appearance and isolated locations of these embassies did not go unnoticed. Some diplomats said they hampered local relationship-building.

The most recent buildings, however, tend to be following the new guidelines called the "Excellence in Diplomatic Facilities" whose description includes (Note: OBO for Overseas Buildings Operations):

OBO will hire leading American architects and engineers. Their selection will be based on the quality of their design achievements and portfolio of work. The selection methodology will be open, competitive, and transparent.

In fact, although I'm not sure if the new London embassy was part of the program, it sure seems like a good example from it:

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