“The Architecture of Diplomacy reads like a Washington political thriller,” Philip Nobel wrote in METROPOLIS in August, 1998. That was the book’s first published review. Reviews followed in numerous publications—academic/scholarly, professional, popular…even literary. Excerpts from published reviews include these:
In The Architecture of Diplomacy Jane Loeffler has produced an original study on the building of American embassies, consulates and residences. This will not only appeal to historians of twentieth-century American architecture but, for the diplomatic historian, there is concrete evidence of America’s relationships with other countries. Loeffler’s thorough account, based primarily on archival sources, provides evidence of the development of a projection of image abroad of the twentieth century’s most powerful state through building projects that were tied to both domestic politics and international affairs. The choice and availability of sites, the financing of building projects overseas, an ever complex array of functional and symbolic requirements in embassy buildings and, increasingly, security issues, are considered… this is a refreshing attempt to place the building of American embassies in the context of American foreign and domestic policy.
Melanie Hall, Boston University, in Diplomacy and Statecraft
It is a happy coincidence when the right author deals with the right subject. The author, Jane C. Loeffler…is well qualified to undertake the extensive research necessary for such a study. And the subject–the evolution of architectural policy and practice in the construction of the several hundred offices and living quarters since World War II–is difficult, complicated, and important. Loeffler’s extensive research in State Department documents, congressional hearings, periodical publications, and biographic materials has resulted in a remarkably rich narrative that gives full scope to the various views of the participants. She is also not afraid to express her own opinion on the various personalities and problems.
Loeffler has covered this complex history…with great care, considerable sympathy, and remarkable understanding. Her judgments on men and buildings are sound. As she indicates in her conclusion, she regards this book as a pioneer in its field. And she has every right to consider it a formidable basis for future scholarship.
Fred Latimer Hadsel, United States Ambassador, Retired, in The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
The worst public building in any American town is almost certain to have been built in the 1950s…Yet the fifties were the decade when, as Jane C Loeffler’s engaging and important book describes, the United States government began a conscious program of constructing embassies abroad designed as statements about America and as messages to other nations, particularly the newly-emerging states of Africa, Asia and Latin America. The United States was becoming aware of itself as the “leader of the free world” and, engaged in the bitter cold war contest with the Soviet Union, recognized architecture’s potential as a dramatic way to demonstrate that America as a superpower not only was rich and strong, but also creative, friendly, and open to others.
Running through Loeffler’s book is the thread of an American epic spanning the decades from innocent confidence to brash imperiousness to today’s reluctant and wary acceptance of the responsibilities of leadership. The epic is not ended. Decisions about its next chapter will have to be made soon if the future is not to be largely left in the hands of some uncertain fate… Like the stock market, architecture seems able to anticipate societal change, and so warrants careful watching…But if architecture is a leading indicator, then American diplomacy today is deteriorating and withdrawing. Loeffler’s book is an indispensable contribution to understanding our current diplomatic problems and an invitation to think seriously about how to solve them.
Charles Hill, Yale University, in American Studies International
Insightful and meticulously researched, this fascinating history of America’s embassy-building program is filled with stories of international intrigue and bureaucratic snarls. Beginning with the dawn of the Cold War, Loeffler explores the forces and challenges—political, financial, social, symbolic—that affect such projects… Building an embassy is a supremely complicated feat, this book ably shows, one requiring as much diplomacy as design.
Christine Liotta Sheridan in Architectural Record
Loeffler’s timely text gives the reader a view of the interplay between Congress and the executive branch, while it highlights the role of powerful personalities and the importance of design… her narrative captures the program’s path to the crossroads of security needs and financial constraints at which it currently stands.
Mary Lynn Jones in Wellesley Magazine
This book covers a neglected chapter of American architectural history, the history of American embassies around the world, from the earliest beginnings in the 19th century to the present effort to build in the new capital city of Berlin. The author is an accomplished historian, and she has written a fascinating, readable, and scholarly chronicle…For all architecture collections in larger public as well as academic libraries.
Peter S. Kaufman, Boston Architectural Center, in Library Journal
Jane C Loeffler’s clearheaded study uncovers the sometimes petty politics, both governmental and architectural, that have plagued US diplomatic design… Leading lights dim in Loeffler’s steely analysis…And so it remains to be seen how seriously the US regards the once valued notion that architecture might ably represent its interests and ideals abroad.
Chuck Twardy in World Architecture
[Dec., 1998/Jan., 1999]
The first comprehensive history of American embassy design reads more like a political thriller. The first publication of Jane C. Loeffler’s research into the design of American embassies, a September 1990 article in The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, was greeted with considerable excitement in that circle. The postwar embassy building program—with its precocious embrace of Modern architecture as a symbol of democracy, its scenic entanglement in Cold War machinations, and its value as a case study of government patronage—was widely understood to be a complex, fascinating, and under-examined episode in the larger story of the institutionalization of Modern architecture in the United States. Many of the individual buildings were well known (some, like Edward Durell Stone’s 1957 embassy in New Delhi, were overexposed from the first sketch), but until Loeffler’s 1990 article, no one had tried to paint the bigger picture.
Now, with the publication of The Architecture of Diplomacy, that picture is complete. Loeffler seems to have infiltrated the State Department at every level to find the political, social, stylistic, and financial forces that shaped each embassy building. All buildings come into being at the behest of such influences, but here the situation is extreme: architects and the politicians who directed them had to balance programmatic, symbolic, functional, budgetary, and public opinion concerns for multiple audiences in the United States and each host country.
Philip Nobel in METROPOLIS
Clarifiant empiriquement les stratégies politiques et les processus de décision qui influent sur l’architecture, Jane C. Loeffler se garde d’envelopper I’édifice dans une aura d’indépendance symbolique, tout en dégageant les grands thêmes de réflexion relatifs à la recherche d’une image architecturale apte à symboliser une nation. En dépit de la condamnation officielle de l’art contemporain sur son propre sol, c’est par le modernisme que les États-Unis choisissent de traduire pour le monde, entre 1946 et 1954, leur message de liberté.
Ariane Wilson in L’Architecture D’Aujourd’hui
Recent bombings of American embassies in Africa have heightened awareness of the need to protect our overseas buildings from terrorist attack. The eerie coincidence of these bombings with the publication of Jane C. Loeffler’s “The Architecture of Diplomacy” makes the book that much more topical and interesting.
Ellen D. Sands in The Washington Times
[Sept. 2, 1998]
See more reviews in Abitare (Italy) [Feb. 1999];
Der Tagesspiegel (Germany) [Nov. 1998];
Oriental Morning Post (Shanghai, PRC) [July 30, 2008]