The United States' New Embassy Compound (NEC) in Beijing was unveiled to the media on Tuesday, three days before its official dedication by the US President George W. Bush after he arrives on Friday for the opening of the Olympic Games.
The nearly 1,000 staff of 26 agencies, who used to work in 22 scattered locations within Beijing, will be working together in one consolidated and secure operating site for the first time, said Clark Randt, the US ambassador to China.
Clark T Randt Jr., the US Ambassador to China, addresses the media in the new US Embassy compound in Beijing on Tuesday, August 5, 2008. [CRI]
The Chinese citizens who come to apply for visas and American citizens who need help will go through procedures much quicker, because visa applications and American citizen services have been brought together in a single building.
As the second largest diplomatic construction project in US history, the new US embassy costs a massive US$434 million, and after four years' construction it covers 10 acres (40, 470 square meters), nearly four times the size of the new Chinese embassy in Washington DC.
Located northeast of the Forbidden City in Beijing's Third Diplomatic Enclave in Liangmahe neighborhood, the NEC consists of five separate buildings, including an 8-storey main chancery, an adjacent 3-storey Atrium Office building, a Consular building mainly for visa applications, Security Guard Quarters for the Marines, a parking and utility structure, says Jay Holleran, the project architect who guided the media around the NEC.
According to Holleran, the multi-building complex, designed by the prominent American architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), and built by American joint-venture construction company of Zachry-Caddell, is one of the best emblems of modern American architecture.
Yet woven into the Chinese earth, the landscape of the NEC is based on traditional Chinese planning principles, including hutong-like walkways lined with bamboo, wooden bridges and a lotus pond that connect with main buildings.
Being secure and environmentally friendly are two major features of the NEC as well as its main design concept, Ambassador Randt explained to the media. "This new complex was built to meet unprecedented security requirements, while at the same time being energy efficient and providing a comfortable work environment maximizing natural light."
In addition, according to Randt, the multi-building complex is "not only welcoming to visitors, but encourages interaction among personnel," which can be seen from the delicate and well designed Artrium building for rest and recreation and the profusion of glass in the office space.
"Our new embassy, together with the impressive new Chinese embassy in Washington, which was dedicated on July 29, are tangible symbols of the growth and importance of our bilateral relationship," said Randt, as he talked about the significance of this new US embassy compound in China.
Paying high tribute to "this spectacular new embassy complex" as well as the Sino-US relations, Randt believes the new embassy "will provide the United States government with a platform appropriate for the most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century, the United States-China relationship."
As for the disposal of the old office buildings, William Prior, the Project Director, said that the Chinese Diplomatic Security Bureau (DSC) will take control of it, selling most of the buildings and returning rented properties, but "the Ambassador will still live in his old residence that takes him only a few minutes to walk to the new working site."
"I personally very much look forward to moving to our new offices in mid-September after the Olympics," Randt told the media.