The US Embassy in Beijing, China, designed by Craig Hartman of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, is the State Department’s second largest project in its history. Like the newly unveiled embassy in London, it is intended to respect the host country, American democratic ideals, security, and environmental sensitivity. The complex is really a neighborhood within a walled green space. Art, natural light, water reclamation, and other sustainable and thoughtful features abound and have lead to the project earning several awards since its completion in 2008.
The 10-acre complex is broken into three main areas — one for social and community functions, one for a professional office, and one for the consulate’s activities (the Consular Pavilion). The project’s green building features revolve around water and light. A rain catchment system feeds the adjacent lotus pond, which clarifies the water and provides a heat sink to assist in cooling the buildings. The surrounding garden, designed by the landscape architecture firm PWP, provides plenty of water features and green space with a collection of plants from the Americas and China and also acts as a security parameter.
White roofs and an advanced HVAC system also reduce energy demand. The windows and skylights let plenty of light deep into the space and symbolize openness and transparency. A unique facade of patterned ceramic fritted glass is suspended from the outer walls, wrapping the office complex and providing the effect of a subtle glow in the evening.
The embassy is also home to a diverse collection of artwork from 18 Chinese and American artist including Louise Bourgeois, Robert Rauschenberg, Jeff Koons, Martin Puryear, Maya Lin, Hai Bo, and Cai Guo-Qiang’s gunpowder piece Eagle Landing on the Pine Branch (2007). Guo-Qiang, speaking to China Daily, said that “the motifs of eagle and pine trees were chosen for their symbolic value in both China and the United States, representing the friendship and cooperation between the two countries.”