Sweeping, Stately -- And Secure

PHOTO ESSAY BusinessWeek/Architectural Record Awards

Israel wanted to build a new Foreign Ministry that reflected both its open, democratic society and its need for security. The result is a building that integrates security requirements directly into the design so that they become invisible and part of the overall environment. Instead of high wire fences and ugly cement barriers to guard the perimeter, the architects incorporated a long, sweeping blast wall into the design of the building itself. An arrival court that can accept up to 25 cars at one time is buried within the sloped landscape to create a secure common entrance point for arriving dignitaries, officials, and staff.

Central to the ceremonial function of the ministry building is a reception hall that is used for greeting and entertaining visiting heads of state. The 75-by-75-foot hall is enclosed with onyx panels installed on aluminum metal spring clips that can absorb the shock of an explosion from outside. The paneling protects dignitaries and others inside the hall even as it delights the eye. In addition, teak wooden screens act as a secondary layer of defense against a bomb blast that generates inward flying debris.

The Foreign Ministry building is intended to be a prototype of secure office design for other future Israeli buildings in the Middle East. The limestone-clad structure took care of the seemingly contradictory requirements of appearing accessible and inviting while maintaining a sense of protection and enclosure. As jury chair Moshe Safdie said: "It's a model...of how security can be achieved. It's actually a luxurious and very well-crafted building."

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