On the Edge of Wilderness: Unpacking the controversial establishment of the U.S. Embassy to Israel (Jerusalem)

Chavez, Natalie, Architectural History - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Crane, Sheila, Arch History Dept, University of Virginia
James, Allison, Arch History Dept, University of Virginia
Johnston, Andrew, Arch History Dept, University of Virginia

In the midst of the Cold War, the American embassy was reimagined to counter growing Soviet influence in non-Western nations. These institutions were regarded as ambassadors of Western thought, as evidenced by their modernist designs. Yet their self-appointed vision as cultural institutions fell with the rise of global conflict, which forced these structures to adopt fortification-like typologies. The risks of an attack multiplies tenfold when an embassy is positioned within a contested landscape, which is regarded as an overt declaration of authority by the host country. In short, the establishment of an embassy within a contested landscape is a nation-building exercise.

Embassies are products of political theater. These institutions emerged as places of sanctuary and refuge, yet in times of crisis, often fail to protect the most vulnerable. As such, this thesis begins with several narratives - particularly mothers and their children - who flock to American embassies fleeing persecution. These accounts are used to explore the most controversial establishment of an American embassy within recent memory: the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The establishment of the U.S. Embassy to Israel (Jerusalem) is a rejection of the validity of international law, and by extension, supposed international heritage. As such, this thesis is not concerned with solely exploring ‘global’ tangible or intangible heritage. Rather, this thesis is primarily interested in the cyclical relationship between these two forms of heritage preservation as a tool for legitimization.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
Cultural Heritage, Jerusalem , Israeli–Palestinian Conflict, U.S. Embassy , Contested Landscapes
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