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United States Consulate General by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

Winner: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Award: Honor Award for Architecture

The United States Consulate General in Guangzhou, China represents a new era in the design of U.S. diplomatic facilities. Representing American values while respecting Guangzhou’s physical and cultural landscape, the project is set within an urban canyon established by the Pearl River New Town. It consists of seven structures across the 7.5-acre site. The dominant structure is a four-story building that houses the primary diplomatic facilities of the Consulate General complex. It is supported by three single-story pavilions that provide secure entry to the compound—one on the eastern edge for the public, one at the southeast corner for diplomatic visitors and one on the western edge for staff and services. Three dependency buildings lie at the center of the complex and provide essential support for the State Department’s operations. The Consulate General building’s exterior is sheathed in local stone and the soft edges of the building, including an outward cant to its eastern façade that deflects the prevailing cooling breeze onto the entry plaza, are all references to its cultural climate.

The project was designed to convey an open, hospitable relationship between the American and Chinese people. Public visitors to the complex enter through a pavilion at the east edge of the site. In this low-lying structure security personnel conduct the required clearances under an elegant and efficient enclosure that is wrapped in earthen-hued Corten steel. Through both aesthetics and clearly defined entry paths, the pavilions provide an appropriately stately, yet friendly, first impression.

The most common service at the Consulate General is provided within the Great Hall. This double-height space mimics the soft form of the Chancery building and the interior is wrapped by a horizontally slatted wood screen. Teller windows are arrayed along the west wall, and the opposite wall is punctuated by wood-lined Corten steel “lantern boxes” that provide natural light and a visual connection to the Consular Garden.

The compound’s architectural ethos is formed around a clear commitment to environmental sustainability that includes the extensive use of local materials. The Consulate Plaza is shaded by trees and manages storm water by means of riparian plants and bioswales that are indigenous to Guangdong Province. All roofs perform a dual role of solar heat rejection and reducing the storm surge impact from torrential rains.

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