Off Location: Drawings for the US Embassy Moscow
1328 February 2018

Carlos Diniz, Embassy of the United States, Moscow, 1976, DM 2967.6

Carlos Diniz (1928–2001). Embassy of the United States, Moscow, c. 1976. Red ink on trace, 460 x 780 mm. © Estate of Carlos Diniz.

13–28 February 2018
Pushkin House
5A Bloomsbury Square
London WC1A 2TA

To mark the opening of the new US Embassy London in Nine Elms, Pushkin House – the UK's oldest independent Russian cultural centre – and Drawing Matter Trust are holding an exhibition of drawings of the US Embassy Moscow. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the stunning series of drawings from the early 1970s are by the architectural illustrator Carlos Diniz. They show the US creating a micro-environment for its embassy, a feature that characterises later examples of the typology including Nine Elms.

The enclosure of the US Embassy Moscow became more pronounced when the construction of the embassy became mired in controversy: surveillance analysts discovered that Soviet workers had embedded bugs in the pre-cast concrete. Work was halted in 1985 then completed in 2000 following the demolition and replacement of upper sections of the building to create secure environments for the diplomatic mission.

Diniz’s drawings on behalf of SOM capture a more innocent world. The building’s architect, Charles Edward Bassett, imagined it as an elite campus, like a research university. The drawings show how the architects negotiated between attempting to please their client, the US State Department, and Soviet officials in Moscow who had to approve the project. 

Carlos Diniz was one of the pioneers of architectural visualisation, the skill of taking architects’ plans and presenting them as perspectives of fully landscaped, occupied buildings. Having grown up in Beverly Hills, he brought the pizazz of Hollywood to architectural drawing, working in his long career with Frank Gehry and Walt Disney amongst many others. Although he was a technical innovator, co-opting printing techniques from movie poster design to bring colour to his drawings, he was also an astonishingly dextrous draughtsman. His work for the US Embassy Moscow shows his subtle skills as a diplomat of architectural design.

All Drawing Matter subscribers are welcome at the Private View of the exhibition from 6:30 to 8:30 pm on 12 February. On 22 February Tim Abrahams, the exhibition curator, will give a talk on the work of Carlos Diniz with particular reference to the US Embassy Moscow. He writes about architecture for The Economist.