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Chancellery for United States Embassy

National Archives and Records Administration,
National Archives and Records Administration,

This chancellery in Montevideo, Uruguay was commissioned at the end of an enormously successful embassy-building campaign by the Department of State in which prominent architects were encouraged to respond to local customs and needs abroad and yet convey a distinctly American character (no style specified). In this case, security was an overriding concern as the Uruguayan government was locked in full-scale guerilla warfare with left-wing urban extremists.

The building was designed to express strength and stability. Its architectural concrete mass is raised above a ground-level arcade wrapped around the solid walls of the recessed entry level. Precast concrete sills provide slots for fresh air intake beneath large windows securely recessed behind the gridded facade but open to prime waterfront views. Contrasting with the powerful exterior, the building’s open interior focuses on a skylit garden court.

Pei was interested in the chancellery as a prestigious government and institutional commission after a decade of endless urban renewal. But construction halted with the depletion of government funds; ultimately, the building was completed by local architects whereupon Pei effectively disowned it.


Building model / Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

Design Team: I.M. Pei, Design Partner; Pershing Wong, Design Architect
I. M. Pei & Associates