Above: Artist’s rendering of the new chancery building. Image courtesy of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations
By Rob Force
This year marks the 70th anniversary of bilateral relations between the United States and Indonesia and 42 years of the U.S. and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) partnership, a fitting time for the official dedication of the new U.S. Bi-Mission in Jakarta.
The U.S. Mission to Indonesia and U.S. Mission to ASEAN (USASEAN) dedicated the bi-mission, March 19, following five years of construction. The new $529 million complex replaced facilities on the same location occupied by the United States government since 1953. After years of planning, nearly 1,400 embassy staff moved into the new campus consisting of a chancery, Marine Security Guard residence, support annex and four-level parking garage. The second phase, scheduled for completion this year, will add a new consular compound entrance and waiting pavilion, a reflecting pool and a heritage building on the site that was used by a delegation from the Republic of Indonesia during negotiations for Indonesia’s independence from the Dutch in 1949.
The opening of the new chancery was, in many ways, a reunion for the bi-mission community. During construction, sections and agencies operated out of temporary office buildings in the old chancery and separate leased facilities in various parts of Jakarta, requiring complicated logistics for transportation between buildings and coordination of meetings. For example, the weekly extended country team meetings often took place at an office building off-site from the chancery, sometimes resulting in round-trip commute times of up to an hour for meeting attendees. In addition to the logistical efficiencies of operating under one roof, the bi-mission community now thrives as a single entity, providing greater opportunities to coordinate more effectively and develop a stronger esprit de corps.
U.S. citizens and visa applicants are among the most immediate beneficiaries of the larger, more comfortable and more efficiently designed consular spaces. When construction on the permanent consular public entrance and outdoor waiting pavilion is completed this fall, the public will enjoy a dramatic improvement in experience. Planned with future workloads in mind, the consular office spaces and waiting areas were designed to accommodate the section’s growth as demand for services increase.
The chancery, while constructed with modern materials, reflects indigenous architecture of wood and bamboo, as well as patterns of Indonesian woven textiles. Located across the street from one of Jakarta’s largest public parks, and Indonesia’s National Monument, the embassy’s green spaces and trees reflect the natural environment. With Jakarta’s tropical climate, energy conservation and “green-technology” factored heavily in the design of the complex. Solar screens in the form of perforated metal louvers on the chancery’s exterior help dissipate heat while allowing natural light to illuminate surrounding spaces. Using high-efficiency chillers, low-flow toilet fixtures, light-emitting diodes and planned installation of solar panels on top of covered walkways, the compound will enjoy reduced energy costs of up to 30 percent over traditional building designs. Several large trees—including a samanea saman, or rain tree, dating from at least 1949—were carefully preserved during construction and provide shade and greenery in a city better known as a concrete jungle with poor air quality and urban sprawl. Other features include a water reclamation system that retains and reuses storm run-off and waste water that is treated, recycled and used for irrigation of garden areas.
The embassy’s extensive art collection, curated by the Art in Embassies program, includes a collection of work by both American and Indonesian artists. Just inside the main entrance to the chancery, visitors will immediately notice the striking work known as “Confluence,” a two-story glazed stoneware and porcelain coral reef installation by American artist Courtney Mattison. Illustrating the challenges of warming oceans, the installation reflects both the vibrant colors of a healthy coral reef, surrounded by bleached coral skeletons. A collection of batik cloth art—created by drawing with a type of wax pen then dying the cloth—can be found throughout the embassy. Created by renowned Indonesian designer Iwan Tirta, the batiks were restored and framed by the Office of Cultural Heritage.
Located on the second floor gallery just outside the cafeteria, a display commemorates the USS Houston, a World War II cruiser that sank in Banten Bay on March 1, 1942. The ship sank with more than 600 crew members on board. The embassy is working with an Indonesian interagency group to establish a maritime conservation area for the USS Houston to protect it and those entombed within from damage or looting. A mural collocated with the USS Houston display depicts the locations of an estimated 1,200 other U.S. service member remains throughout the Indonesian archipelago.
The 11-story, 330,000-square-foot metal and glass chancery, is not only a striking and beautiful structure, but it stands as a symbol of the partnership and friendship between the United States and Indonesia, and the greater Indo-Pacific region as a whole.
Five Indonesian cabinet-level officials and the ASEAN Secretary General joined Ambassador Joseph R. Donovan Jr., USASEAN Chargé d’Affaires Jane Bocklage, Undersecretary for Management Brian J. Bulatao and Bureau of Overseas Building Operations Director Addison “Tad” Davis IV for the March 19 inauguration ceremony.
At the inauguration, Donovan said during his remarks, “The end result will be a compound touching on all the areas of our partnership with Indonesia: from the shared history of our two countries, to the thread of cultural connections woven throughout the design, to the U.S. and Indonesian workers who worked side-by-side to build the new embassy. As I like to say, our new home was built by Indonesian and American hands.”
Rob Force is a political officer at Embassy Jakarta.