Embassy Complex

Jeff Koons. Tulips, 1995-2004.
Jeff Koons. Tulips, 1995-2004.

Completed in 2008, the main U.S. Embassy compound in Beijing, China, is a secure, state-of-the-art facility located northeast of the Forbidden City in Beijing’s Third Diplomatic Enclave. The Department of State’s second-largest overseas construction project, it is a beautiful integration of Eastern and Western design traditions.

The planning for this compound started in the mid-1990s to solve the logistical issues, security concerns, and increasing demand for consular services in Beijing. The Department of State sought to obtain the “best of American architecture” through a Federal Design Excellence program competition. The winning design of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP, Architects (SOM) resulted in the energy-efficient and sustainable building standing in Beijing today.

Eastern and Western aesthetics were considered not only in the building and landscape design, but also in the selection of artwork displayed throughout the Embassy. The State Department’s Art in Embassies (AIE) program curated the permanent collection installed throughout the Embassy complex consisting of work by major American and Chinese artists. Additions to this collection continue to be made by the Foundation of Art and Preservation in Embassies (FAPE), including a planned installation of a site-specific Martin Puryear sculpture in 2018. The iconic Tulips sculpture by Jeff Koons is the only temporary work, currently on a 10-year loan.

Situated on a 10-acre site, the Embassy consists of 6 buildings, including a new annex completed in 2016, and houses more than 1,300 American and locally hired staff representing almost 50 different federal agencies. The size and the scope of the U.S. Mission in China reflect both the importance of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship and the range of topics in which the two countries are currently engaged.

  • Cost: $434 million USD (2,976,632,400.00 CNY)
  • Number of Local workers who assisted in construction: 10,000
  • Site area: 10 acres (4 hectares)
  • Project area: 500,000 square feet (152,400 square meters)
  • Architectural Design by: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP, Architects (SOM) of San Francisco, California
  • Landscape Designer: Peter Walker and Associates, Berkeley, California
  • General Construction Contractor: Zachry Caddell Joint Venture (ZCJV)
    • Zachry Construction Corporation, San Antonio, Texas
    • Caddell Construction Company, Montgomery, Alabama
  • Complex consisted of 6 separate Modern buildings connected by narrow hutong-like walkways
    • 8-story main chancery
    • 3-story Atrium office building
    • Marine Security Guard Quarters
    • Consular building
    • 7-story annex with public programming space
    • Parking and utility structure/ancillary guard structure
  • Buildings are protected by a perimeter wall, with a buffer of landscaped grounds between the wall and buildings
  • Perimeter wall in front of the consular section shifts from concrete to thick, blast-proof, transparent glass, allowing passerbys a view inside the compound
  • All buildings incorporate earthquake resistant design features due to China’s high seismic risk
  • September 11, 2001—Final 5 design teams selected to compete for the Embassy design contract arrive in Beijing
  • SOM announced winner of the design competition
  • February 10, 2004—Ground Breaking Ceremony
    • Participants: U.S. Ambassador Clark T. Randt, Jr. and Vice Foreign Minister Zhou Wenzhong and other Chinese Officials
  • May 28, 2004—Construction Commenced
  • April 11, 2007—Topped out
  • August 8, 2008—Dedication
    • Dedicated by President George W. Bush
  • Construction materials utilized are high quality with low life-cycle costs
  • Natural light used extensively to keep energy costs low
  • Storm water retained on site is purified through a series of lotus ponds
  • Consumption and carbon emissions reduced through white roofing and state-of-the-art mechanical systems