When Donald Trump recently announced that the opening of the new US embassy in the UK was not a good enough reason for him to travel to the UK, he highlighted the significance of the architecture as well as the positioning of the embassy building in his typical, cryptic tweet.
“Reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for “peanuts,” only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!“
And so it is that embassies often get into the news for all the wrong reasons. The architecture of the 1927 original British Embassy in Kabul, for instance, was Italianate with most of the materials brought from India via Peshawar.
But as James Stourton, author of British Embassies: Their Diplomatic and Architectural History, points out in his fascinating book, “in the early 2000s The British Embassy established itself in the present secure compound in Kabul” and that is what made the news. Conflict and crises are the fodder of news.
To discover the ever-evolving histories that lie behind British Embassies in Addis Ababa, Ankara, Istabul, Kabul, Kuwait, Tehran and Tunis as well those in Paris and Washington this richly illustrated book will tell you all you need to know from fabrics used on sofas to which politicians sat on them.
British Embassies: Their Diplomatic and Architectural History by James Stourton
Frances Lincoln, £40 pp.351 ISBN 978-0-7112-3860-2