"IS THERE A SOUND STRATEGY?"
During the construction of the US Embassy in Moscow, American intelligence discovered a complex system of listening devices placed within the building’s concrete structure by their Soviet counterparts. After numerous, unsuccessful attempts to neutralize this threat, it was decided that the building remain unfinished. Construction was only resumed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This nearly forgotten history suggests that the embassy, like the concert hall, is an architectural acoustic instrument. Its “performance” is determined by the control and regulation of sound. The soundscape of the typical embassy is characterized by the restriction of sound through the use of insulating walls, ceilings and floors. In this highly regulated environment there is little opportunity to experience sound that is uncontrolled or accidental. It is ironic that in the embassy--the architectural interface between two countries--the aural experience is defined by isolation and separation. This US Embassy in Baghdad radically rethinks the acoustic conditions of its design and program. Highly classified and restricted rooms are placed next to the embassy’s most open and public spaces. But no wall is silent. Every surface filters, leaks, transmits and distorts sound. Ventilation ducts are “poorly” designed so that they transport sound from one space to another. A diplomat can hear the unfiltered noise of the public even in the most restricted office, while the public can eavesdrop on the most private political conversations. The visual character of this building remains undetermined. Rather, the architecture of the embassy provides an aural experience of transparency between guest country and host country.