16 May 2007

postopolis @ storefront

For those in New York, the Storefront for Art and Architecture is hosting a week-long blog-fest called "Postopolis." Starring BLDGBLOG, City of Sound, Inhabitat, and Subtopia, along with many guest stars, it promises to be an exciting series of presentations and discussions. There seems to be quite a generational range of participants, mixing younger bloggers and practitioners with old-guard characters like Mark Wigley, Michael Sorkin, and Lebbeus Woods -- should be interesting to see how that pans out. Who knows... maybe PR himself will stop by and make an appearance?

a monument to futility

From the Washington Post: an update on the progress of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Peerless among all other U.S. Embassies in size and security, the new complex (mentioned previously in these pages), is due to be completed right on schedule late this summer. There seem to be some problems, though:
The bad news is that it appears it's not going to have enough housing for all the employees who'll be moving to the 27-building complex on a 104-acre tract of land -- about the size of the Vatican, two-thirds the size of the Mall -- within the Green Zone.

In fact, our new man in Baghdad, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, is said to be concerned that, while there are more than 600 blast-resistant apartments in the NEC, there's a need for several hundred more apartments.

Problem seems to be that the original plans didn't account for hundreds of staff working in reconstruction, development, the inspector general's office and other security programs, who, though considered temporary, will need, at least for a few years, somewhere to live. There are 1,000 Americans working at the embassy, and Crocker is looking to downsize, but we hear he's having trouble finding even 100 to toss overboard.

Also, there are about 200 non-U.S. workers brought in from around the region who are replacing Iraqi staff because it is too dangerous for the Iraqis, who live outside the fortified Green Zone, to work for Americans.

Worst of all, there's no provision for rooms for congressional delegations or other distinguished guests coming to shop in the famed markets. There aren't any safe hotels in Baghdad, much less a decent B&B.
The truly remarkable part about all this is not only the Embassy's symbolic role as a concrete manifestation of our country's long-term to commitment in Iraq for decades to come. Its symbolism sadly goes much further, in that its failures also mirror the much larger failure of the diplomatic/military mission it will house. I would have thought that the $1 billion (estimated) budget, which includes a pool, gym, food court, accommodations for 1,000, and an ambassadorial residence rumored to approach 16,000 sf, would have covered all the necessary requirements for the fortress/embassy. But no: apparently along the way, despite the massive funds and murky shortcuts taken to expedite construction, the powers-that-be failed to provide the necessary space for "staff working in reconstruction, development, the inspector general's office and other security programs." That's a pretty big omission, if you ask me.

Ultimately, the Embassy will serve as a monument to its futile mission: a chronically misguided and mismanaged occupation that seems to have no end in sight.

link: "World's Biggest U.S. Embassy May Not Be Quite Big Enough" by Al Kamen, in the Washington Post