Chancery entry
Morphosis Chancery entry

On Thursday, the United States broke ground on a new embassy in Beirut, designed by Culver City, Calif., firm Morphosis Architects. The U.S. Department of State aims to finish the project by 2022.

Set on a 43.87-acre site, the complex will include a Chancery, a Marine security guard residence, housing, and support and community spaces, according to a state department fact sheet. The total project budget is $1.03 billion.

"That we are building a billion dollar facility on this site, overlooking your vibrant capital and the breathtaking Mediterranean, fills me with great optimism for the future," said U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard at the groundbreaking ceremony. "I hope you share that optimism – it is what fuels the next generation to continue the work that was done before them to build a secure, stable, and prosperous Lebanon."

The state department announced that it had selected Morphosis for the project in 2013, and noted about the firm at the time: "Their presentation demonstrated the management and design approach required to successfully execute this project, as well as a thorough understanding of the importance and impact of an American Embassy in Beirut."


Under the leadership of Thom Mayne, FAIA, winner of both the Pritzker Architecture Prize and the AIA Gold Medal, Morphosis' prior projects for the U.S. government include the San Francisco Federal Building, completed in 2007, and the Wayne Lyman Morse United States Courthouse, completed in 2006 in Eugene, Ore. The firm was also shortlisted to design a new U.S. Embassy in London, but lost the commission to KieranTimberlake in 2010. (View more work by Morphosis in ARCHITECT's Project Gallery.)

Staff housing
Morphosis Staff housing
Morphosis Plaza

As I noted when the commission was announced, designing a U.S. embassy in Beirut is a sensitive project: "Thirty years ago, a bombing at the embassy left 52 people dead. The embassy relocated, and the following year another bombing killed 11, according to the embassy's website."

Morphosis' design features the sculptural forms expected from Mayne's work, with structures integrated into the landscape via long spans of green roofs. Materials will include concrete, stone, and metal. The state department fact sheet notes: "The Embassy’s overall design draws on local building techniques adapted to the dramatic coastal topography, using a system of interwoven terraces that work with the landscape to enhance security, function, and performance."