REVIEW: Architecture of Diplomacy: The British Ambassador's Residence in Washington

20.5.14

Copyright: The Architecture of Diplomacy: The British Ambassador's Residence in Washington, Flammarion, 2014
Since opening its doors in 1930, the British Ambassador’s Residence has been considered the premier diplomatic address in Washington. Designed by the celebrated British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, whose work ranges from vernacular and domestic architecture to the imperial splendour of his designs for the city of New Delhi, the  Residence combines elements from the neoclassical English country house with influences from American  architecture. His only building in the United States, its majestic interiors, exteriors and gardens in the English style have been delighting Washington’s social and political elite for over eighty years.


Architecture of Diplomacy © Eric Sander
Lutyens always conceived of his buildings in three dimensions, in contrast to the modernist placing of function ahead of form. Nowhere in the Residence is his mastery of dimension and his generous use of space seen to better effect than in the dazzling Grand Staircase. Lutyens employed a similar double staircase design at the Viceroy's House in New Delhi, with a large space above open to the sky. 
The Architecture of Diplomacy is the first book to be written about the residence, and it explores the building's design and the history that has unfolded within its walls. The book is written by Anthony Seldon and Daniel Collings, with photographs by Eric Sander and James Osen. It also has a foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales.


Architecture of Diplomacy © Eric Sander
The west side of the Residence, viewed from the steps leading up to the swimming pool.
Through specially commissioned photography that lavishly illustrates the house and its extensive gardens, this book leads the reader behind the elegant gates on Massachusetts Avenue deep into the corridors of power. The book combines a masterful account of the history of the house and gardens with previously untold stories of visiting royalty, presidents, prime ministers and celebrities, to show why this Residence, its architecture and gardens occupy such a special place in the diplomatic history of the United Kingdom in the United States.


Architecture of Diplomacy © Eric Sander Lutyens' stunning Main Corridor comprises the principal East-West axis of the Residence. 
Those familiar will know that its neighbours include the Vice President's official residence, the Naval Observatory as well as Hillary Clinton's Washington D.C. residence. I've been fortunate to visit the Embassy and it is as spectacular as this sublime book shows. If you're a Brit in America, or an American in the UK, this book should have a place in your collection.


Architecture of Diplomacy © Eric Sander
At this point, overlooking the pool, we are now at the highest point on the site, a full twenty-three feet above the level of the entrance to the Chancery off Massachusetts Avenue.
Find out more about the party that accompanied the book launch by checking out Carol Ross Joynt's review of the party. 


Architecture of Diplomacy © Eric Sander
A view of the Ballroom looking southwards across the Main Corridor, through the Portico
outside the door and into the Garden. The three doors and two mirrors on this south side offer a perfect echo of those on the north side.
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