About

Photo: Nervous Marine guard (apparently reaching for his gun) during photograhy visit, 1984

Photography

It is not easy to photograph an embassy.  The State Department is obviously concerned that photos might show security measures or classified documents. When I toured the project in 1984, I was escorted at all times by a nervous Marine Security Guard, and it was difficult to be treated as an intruder in a building I had worked for years to create.  The Marine couldn’t believe it when I asked to take photos of the Ambassador’s office, but the Ambassador’s executive assistant said that it was not a problem- the Ambassador was out of town, and there were hardly ever any important papers in his office anyway.

There should be little concern about reproducing photos and plans of the project here because most of them were previously published in periodicals in the 1980s, as can be seen on the Publications page.

As previously explained, most of the photographs are digital scans of old 35mm Kodachrome 64 slides from 1978-84, taken with a Nikon SLR.  Paul Simon foresaw that they would take our Kodachrome away, and today our cameras are digital.

Richard Metler and Fred Bassetti took the photographs listed, and Catherine Bassetti took the aerial photo and some photos of the completed building from 1983-4.

Editing

Richard Metler and James Mueller provided historical information and editing assistance for the website.

Typography

I wanted the website to have a look reminiscent of  traditional architectural hand drawings, which used Corbu stencils, Leroy lettering, and ubiquitous architects' hand lettering.  The stencil font used for major titles is a free Google font.  The hand-lettered font used for most text is Tekton, an Adobe font created from digital scans of the lettering of Francis D.K. Ching, a retired architecture professor at the University of Washington.

Sound Track

Of course, there was no soundtrack, but to help get the disco vibe of the era, here is a link to classic Bee Gees' Saturday Night Fever.  Movie posters with John Travolta took us by surprise in remote Portuguese villages.

Google Earth

This is a link to the current Google Earth view of the embassy.

Recognition

A key purpose of this website is to recognize the people, particularly the individual architects, who contributed to the embassy project.  This has never happened until now, and some of the people are no longer with us.  Fred Bassetti was fairly generous about sharing credit, but tradition and industry practice dictated that only his name has ever been associated with the project.

After more than 45 years of practice, I am still amazed that architects receive so little credit, especially within their own profession.  Architects choose their career because of their love of design, yet even the few that actually design significant projects are rarely recognized individually.  They create designs and often spend years nurturing them to reality, only to remain anonymous while sole credit is given to a senior partner who may or may not have been involved with design.  The primary role of senior partners is often getting the job- critical to be sure, and in such cases they deserve marketing awards.  (An ironic twist is that, because actual project designers are seldom officially recognized, design credit for projects is often later claimed by multiple architects and firms.)

Contrast this with other creative fields which also involve many people, big egos, and unique and expensive projects.  The movie and TV industries give top billing to star actors and directors, but also credit everyone who has even a tiny role in a production, listing scores of people including costume managers, bookkeepers, gaffers, and best boy grips.  Orchestras credit all the musicians, not just the conductor, authors often name co-authors, editors, and others who assist with their publications, and scientific research papers credit everyone from the principal investigator down to young post-docs.

Last word

This website began after the pandemic hit in 2020.  I retired suddenly and found myself without any projects for the first time in decades.  Isolated at home, I wanted to try something new, and creating this website was the right project at the right time, combining architecture, history, travel, photography, graphic design, and writing.

Please contact me if you have any questions or comments.

Christopher Kirk, Architect
Seattle, WA
(206) 380.0099
Chris@Kirkllc.com