In 1968 Congress charged the secretary of state with responsibility for developing a neighborhood for foreign chanceries (office buildings for embassy staff) that had difficulty finding convenient locations after passage in 1964 of the city's strict zoning plan. The master plan for the International Center, located on the west side of Connecticut Avenue at Van Ness Street on a large tract of land formerly held by the Bureau of Standards, was designed by Edward Durell Stone, Jr., and approved by the National Capital Planning Commission in 1970. The 6-acre lot between Tilden and Van Ness streets that faces Connecticut Avenue was reserved for an international organization (see INTELSAT, NW26), and twenty-three lots of about an acre each were divided into two groups, the street patterns of which are based on the model of suburban housing developments. The sites south of Van Ness Street winding around a central park began to be developed in 1979, while nine lots to the north organized around a double cul-de-sac were reserved for future expansion. The plan mandated that buildings be on a domestic scale—not more than four stories—in recognition of the large residential neighborhood along the site's western perimeter. The natural topography was to be preserved; between 1980 and 1985 James Van Sweden was the landscape architect for the park, a plateau overlooking all the contiguous buildings. From the outset the stylistic language of the chanceries represented a new international eclecticism, with national architectural traditions of each country reinterpreted within the framework of contemporary design. Many contain central atriums, de rigueur in late modern office buildings but here sometimes conceived as symbolic ceremonial spaces or actual gathering places for cultural and social events.
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