Architecture as Diplomacy

At the World Bank, Architecture as Diplomacy

Published: March 09, 1997

THE new World Bank complex now approaching completion here is about as un-Washington — and as un-banklike — as a building gets.

In a city known for its classical influences, there is nary a cornice or pediment in sight. Moreover, there is a total absence of such traditional materials as marble and brass. And with the exception of granite curbstones mandated by the city — and various wood veneers — all the building materials are manmade.

But the reasons for these departures are far from apolitical.

”The World Bank is in the business of assisting third-world countries and the whole language of classicism is very much connected to the issue of colonialism,” said William Pedersen of Kohn Pedersen Fox,the New York-based main architect for the project. ”We did not want to get involved in that debate.”

The complex, which occupies a square block along Pennsylvania Avenue two blocks west of the White House, comprises three buildings grouped around a 13-story atrium. One of the buildings and the atrium are new and two are what is left of the bank’s original headquarters, a complex of six fairly nondescript office buildings erected over roughly 25 years beginning in the mid-40’s.

The original buildings were linked on some floors, but not on others, and had separate climate-control systems. ”It was a complete hodgepodge,” said Tim Cullen, senior adviser for external affairs at the bank.

”The old buildings were very dark and there were a lot of problems with technology and with heating and cooling,” said Sven Sandstrom, managing director of the bank. ”They were hot in the summer and, given the darkness, had a very enclosed feeling. We also had asbestos problems, which made wiring and renovation very difficult.”

In addition, by the mid 80’s, the bank was bursting at the seams with personnel. The old complex held just under 4,000 staff members; another 4,000 were scattered in buildings the bank either owned or leased in the area. Clearly, something had to be done.

In 1989 the bank held a worldwide architectural competition and received 76 proposals from 26 countries. This was later narrowed to 8, with Kohn Pedersen Fox the eventual winner. One of the terms of the competition was that the two newest buildings in the original complex be retained temporarily for economic reasons. The winning proposal went a step further and incorporated them into the finished plan.

”They’re serviceable buildings by good architects and we thought we’d be a step ahead of the game in terms of the bank’s master plan if we used them,” said Mr. Pedersen.

One of the retained buildings was designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill who also designed Lever House in New York and many other office buildings in the 60’s. The other is by Vincent Kling in association with Clas Riggs, now Clas Riggs Owens & Ramos. The older buildings, with their austere modern facades, appear to be embedded in the new and larger aluminum and glass structure.

BUT what really carried the day, said Mr. Sandstrom, was the way the design introduced natural light not only to the center of the building but also to two underground floors by way of the vaulted atrium. The atrium is 178 feet tall, considerably above the 130-foot limit in the district, but allowable because the extra height is not used for occupancy. It has a 28-foot waterfall, elevator banks, planters and a number of seating areas.

”It has the feeling of a main street where people get together, talk, eat lunch,” said Mr. Sandstrom. ”We’ve never had that before.”


war is business

In the Cold War Era, arms exports were used by both the Soviet Union and the United States to influence their standings in other countries, particularly Third World Countries.

Now the USA has all the monopoly on the subject of persuading and/or bullying the third world, separatist, corrupt, democracies, rebellious separatist, left-wing and right-wing and dispersing of smaller civil wars, ethnic sectarian religious violence, Israel, jihadis alike. And what a profitable business it is!


The arms industry is a global business which manufactures weapons and military technology and equipment. It consists of commercialindustry involved in research, development, production, and service of military material, equipment and facilities. Arms producing companies, also referred to as defense contractors or military industry, produce arms mainly for the armed forces of states. Departments of government also operate in the arms industry, buying and selling weapons, munitions and other military items. Products include gunsammunitionmissilesmilitary aircraftmilitary vehiclesshipselectronic systems, and more. The arms industry also conducts significant research and development.

It is estimated that yearly, over 1.5 trillion dollars are spent on military expenditures worldwide (2.7% of World GDP).[1] This represents a decline from 1990 when military expenditures made up 4% of world GDP. Part of this goes to the procurement of military hardware and services from the military industry. The combined arms sales of the top 100 largest arms producing companies amounted to an estimated $315 billion in 2006.[2] In 2004 over $30 billion were spent in the international arms trade (a figure that excludes domestic sales of arms).[3] The arms trade has also been one of the sectors impacted by the credit crunch, with total deal value in the market halving from US$32.9bn to US$14.3bn in 2008.[4] Many industrialized countries have a domestic arms industry to supply their own military forces. Some countries also have a substantial legal or illegal domestic trade in weapons for use by its citizens. An illegal trade in small arms is prevalent in many countries and regions affected by political instability.

Contracts to supply a given country’s military are awarded by the government, making arms contracts of substantial political importance. The link between politics and the arms trade can result in the development of what US President Dwight D. Eisenhower described as amilitary-industrial-congressional complex, where the armed forces, commerce, and politics become closely linked. The European defence procurement is more or less analogous to the U.S. military-industrial complex. Various corporations, some publicly held, others private, bid for these contracts, which are often worth many billions of dollars. Sometimes, such as the contract for the new Joint Strike Fighter, a competitive tendering process takes place, where the decision is made on the merits of the design submitted by the companies involved. Other times, no bidding or competition takes place.

Not all who Stumble are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

a.bilgrami @ burnsroad

“ countries need blood as much as Beethoven symphonies needed lyrics.”

“Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting and doing the things historians usually record, while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry and even whittle statues. The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks. Historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks for the river.” — Will Durant, Life, Oct. 18, 1963

Neo colonialism

We live in a propaganda society and clashes of cultures. Information is so profusely meddled that knowledge of right and wrong and wisdom and regard for humanity is gone!!  political leadership around the world stands between cross roads of strategic compromises to taking the right action. Making decision is long, complicated and perplexing process in the hands of red tape and corporatocracy while humanity suffers at their hands. Add to it clashes of eastern and western thoughts and culture. The world is loosing its collective contributing capability is looking for a new leadership.

“Those who think colonialism is dead, think again. Neocolonialism is very much alive. Africa is in a cesspool because the west covets it’s mineral wealth. Think about it. You in America consume chocolate, coffee and coke everyday. Where do the cocoa and metal for the wrappers in the chocolate, coffee beans for coffee and the metal for beverage can tins, come from? The answer is Africa. If Africa were to become sane and stable, the west would NOT be able to pay for cocoa, coffee beans and metal. I am not even getting into metal that is used everywhere, including your precious IPODS and Laptops or the diamonds that sell for $20 in US malls. It’s all coming from Africa.

Last year in Greece, a racist Australian told me that the “whites” send food aid to the blacks and browns. I was so shocked that I couldn’t react. The “west” has become so used to opportunism, exploitation and consumption that they have lost a grip on the hard core reality.”

Imperial hubris is ever so delightful.
As for Swiss Bank accounts, they are aided and abetted by the west or else the Alpine mountains of Switzerland would be impoverished, if they weren’t using African cocoa to make the world’s finest chocolate and sitting on top of African, Pakistani et al embezzled public funds. On top of that Switzerland claims to be “nuetral,” whatever that means. It should bow down in thanks to Africa everyday.”

aliya anjum author

“A Stubborn Attempt to Think Clearly”

what would it be if you lived in Pakistan? “Seek simplicity, but distrust it.” — Alfred North Whitehead
and i d agree. all objective faculty in human reasoning  has issued from a new audacity of imagination.”

the problem in Pakistan is, there is so much of negativity, if you point to reality your are considered a pessimist. you cant say something about reality, reality being that of common man and not elite as they are two different things that can deem you a realist.

the elite can of course choose, cos they got CHOICES to be optimist, idealist,capitalist,opportunist, communist,sexist, nihilist as their life progresses into different phase of evolution.

the poor have only one way to go up. sheer will power that will destroy dignity, and optimism of faith, waiting for some miracle to happen. as Seneca said : “There is no great genius without some touch of madness.” they have various choices from all kinds of unsystematic chaos called life in Pakistan.

these are two diffrent raelities and possibilities of choices in Pakistan.  depending on which angle you look at it from whether you call it factual or imaginary.

dollah republic of corruptistan

I know i am going to sound really horrible, negative and angry and bitter below. but i frankly, write this with a very clean objective heart. cos its not my personal problem, its the plight of this country, one day that i have spent like this living in Pakistan.

Its been there since i was born here. and i love this country i love everything abt it. i can make jokes about corruption although it makes me want to puke at time, cos my pedigree has stayed out of illegal ways of making money, although the younger lot feel rather confident that it is the only way to go about living in Pakistan and those who refuse to acknowledge it are living in utopia. I, disagree very strongly.

Cos i dont want to do any wrong. i am an honest person w/o religious connotations, (i have independent view on religion being brought in a hippy home with an atheist parent.  I cant say religion doesn’t require fair intropection and judgement of one self, before getting all preachy, I write my opinion of religion in the spiritual category)

but i do have a sense a VERY strong sense of whats right and wrong. A which i feel living in Pakistan people generally loose in political ethnic and social chaos.

But wrt the Chief Justice taking suo moto against own sons corruption! Wallah!! I am amazed the son made that decision, i cant hold CJ responsible. But dint he know he was in a vulnerable position to get caught like this on a spree of suo motos? and as a matter of principal shouldn’t he also resign? If he does the country will go into another turmoil wrt the PM conviction case, extending to Zardari who is prob gonna buy the next CJ in place?
Religion/morality/ethics are irrelevant in our country! The fact is: money is the official religion of Pakistan! military/mullah/politicians/liberals/conservatives/rightist/leftists all give oscar winning performances n pvtly bow just to money god. Incredible!!
~Excerpt from The Dollar Republic!

Excerpt from Obscure Sorrows: dual nationality

Prime Minister Gilani said there was no restriction on dual citizenship in the country’s constitution.Speaking in a television programme, he said he was in favour of expatriates getting right to vote and becoming members of the parliament.

There should be a debate on the issue of dual citizenship and the parliament should decide the issue and bring in new legislation as the world has changed.

Mentioning that over 300 councillors, mayors and members of House of Commons and House of Lords in Britain were Pakistanis, he said the expatriates should not be deprived of the right to vote and become members of the parliament.

Nowhere in the constitution was it written that Pakistanis cannot hold dual citizenship and cannot become legislators and bureaucrats, he said. He added that law and constitution were not made for individuals and one had to look at the situation in the country and the world.

the prime minister thinks we should all get the immunity from all wrong if acc. to him its not stated in black and white into the constitution, things like ethics aren’t strong part of PPP decorum. so they resort to logic, to which there is no end. forgetting conveniently that all foreign “dual nationals” including  farah ispahani when they took their oath to become American citizens, including Pakistani minister had to pledge their “allegiance” exclusively to America and renounce their allegiance to “any and all foreign governments.” That included their strongest  allies of all times.

In other words the PM is implying that we are a failed country the Pakistanis who chose live in Pakistani hell that politicians made of this country, and fight their way to live, educate and make a living despite whatever goes around them and no matter how much the govt system extorts from them are unable to participate make policies and govern their lives? that their lives will always be in the hands of the majority illiterate poverty struck or feudals or oligarchy that has been ruling this country for ever?

in other words the PM is also saying that he gives up on educated Pakistanis who want do something and Pakistan which can be run only by foreigners of Pakistani origins loyal to their passport nations , hence we should all get a foreign passport to keep sane? or else things are gonna get worse and evetually only those with passport immunty will be able to flee the country at the time of crises.

in other words after social class, religious and educational discrimination the prime minister insists the Pakistanis be more divided between have and have nots of foreign passports.

The point is what is the prime minister blabbering about here? Dual Citizenship means what? and being loyal to Whom?

The word “allegiance” means that we promise loyalty. Is the already controversial convicted prime minster saying that constitution of pakistan ALLOWS for an individual most importantly a governmental office holder, with pride of heavy public mandate in his pocket  minus the pain of poverty stricken uneducated awam stuck w roti kapra and makaan slogan of yesterday?

The word “allegiance”  also carries with it the expectation that this loyalty will be exclusive and unrestrained. In the case of a declared war or real threat or conflict, for example, our allegiance to Pakistan should and would preclude any other interest, be it another country or political ideology.

screw no constitutional bar on dual nationality?  i bet the constitution also doesnt say sell your soul to the devil yet. but that doesn’t stop any one right?  So do your job n MAKE friggin amendments!! #DualCitizenship #LoyaltoWhom?