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Call for Proposals | Forum: Nation Buildings – Embassy Architecture and Diplomatic Practice

This HJD Forum will look at how the architecture of diplomatic missions reflects both how countries see themselves and their role in the world and how they want other countries and their citizens to see them.

The Forum will debate the material and communicative functions of embassy buildings and how they can affect relations between countries and populations. It will also examine and theorise the impacts of wider issues relating to foreign policy, security, and digitalisation and how embassy buildings (including consulates and other ‘national’ structures such as buildings with a public/cultural diplomacy function) serve multiple interests and agendas.

Forum Guest Editors: Stuart MacDonald (ICR Research), Shaun Riordan

Length of Proposals: 200 words

Email to: Stuart@culturalrelations.co.uk

Deadline Proposal: 30 April 2023

Length of Essays: 3,000 words

Submission of Selected Papers: Q4 2023

Publication in The Hague Journal of Diplomacy: Q3 2024


The architecture of embassies and other diplomatic missions reflects both how countries see themselves and their role in the world and how they want other countries and their citizens to see them.

In design terms, embassies can function as carriers and showcases for cultural expressions of national identity, political values, or programmes such as moves towards EU integration. They may (or may not) be designed as an integral part of a country’s strategic external self-representation. The building can, by its location, design, scale, and relation to other embassies, proclaim either national status or a commitment to security - the contradictory demands of security and representation encapsulate the dilemma of contemporary embassy builders.

But it is not one way communication. Other countries and their citizens will interpret a country´s embassy building, and especially changes in an embassy building, according to their own perceptions and expectations. This can impact on the relations between countries and how seriously the host country thinks those relations are being taken. Changing trends in embassy design and construction can show how the way a country thinks about its foreign policy and diplomacy changes over time.

The design and lay-out of an embassy also reflect the working practices within, and the importance given to, each activity. The principles of embassy design are further challenged by the emergence of virtual embassies seeking a presence in countries otherwise ruled out by security, political or cost concerns. Does the design of such virtual embassies reflect that of physical embassies or seek instead to take advantage of the greater freedom afforded online?

The Forum aims to give an impetus to new thinking and research on the intersection between embassies as material expressions of identity and the formal, functional, and public aspects of diplomatic practice in an increasingly security, cost-conscious, and digital age. The Forum is a call to scholars to take a holistic view of contemporary diplomatic presences and activities on the one hand, and on the other, of how these activities are framed by structures which may reflect these contemporary concerns but are also likely to carry meanings from the past.

Style and content

Apart from being short, Forum Essays are typically more argumentative than original research articles. They are meant to inspire future academic research and debate. HJD Forums have also proven to be a stimulus for class discussion in graduate seminars. Contributions are usually informed by academic research.

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