- The Washington Times - Friday, July 3, 2009

CANADIAN MONUMENT

Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson stood in the vast plaza of the Canadian Embassy and enjoyed the scene, as hundreds of Canadians from the Washington area gathered to celebrate Canada Day.

“It is a terrific location,” he said Wednesday.

The Canadian Embassy is marked its 20th birthday this year as the only foreign diplomatic mission between the Capitol and the White House.

“It is the best location to view an inaugural parade,” Mr. Wilson said. “The president and vice president passed right by, waving at us.”

The embassy’s rooftop terrace is also one of the best places to view the Fourth of July fireworks.

Mr. Wilson said the prominent location, across from the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, reflects the close relationship between Canada and the United States. With $1.5 billion a day in trade, the two countries have the deepest economic ties of any two nations in the world.

“We have gotten to know each other very well over the years. We are best friends, neighbors, allies and business partners,” said Mr. Wilson, whose mother and mother-in-law were born in the United States.

Today the massive embassy at 501 Pennsylvania Ave. NW is regarded as just another part of the monumental scenery of Washington.

However, when then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney dedicated the compound in May 1989, the embassy opened to extremely mixed reviews from architectural critics and longtime Washingtonians. Canadian architect Arthur Erickson, who ironically died in May 20 years later, was renown for his modernist designs but had to blend classical Washington elements into the embassy to meet the demands of D.C. government planners.

The result was a rotunda with columns, reflecting the architecture of the Capitol, and sleek contemporary lines emulating I.M. Pei’s East Building, which also opened to mixed reviews in 1974.

A critic for Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper called the embassy one of Mr. Erickson’s “miscalculations,” adding that “condominiums have nicer lobbies.” Forbes.com listed it as one of the world’s ugliest buildings in 2002.

However, The Washington Post’s former architecture critic, Benjamin Forgey, called the building an “edgy, flawed masterpiece … but a masterpiece.”

BACK TO CARACAS

U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy this week returned to Venezuela, more than nine months after the country’s anti-American president, Hugo Chavez, expelled him in a dispute over U.S. policy.

He told reporters in the capital, Caracas, that he hopes his return marks “the first step toward more productive relations.”

Mr. Chavez kicked out Mr. Duddy in September in what he called an act of solidarity with Bolivia’s leftist president, Evo Morales, who expelled U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg after accusing him of interfering in the country’s domestic affairs. The United States retaliated by expelling Bolivian Ambassador Gustavo Guzman.

Mr. Chavez also recalled his ambassador, Bernardo Alvarez, who returned to Washington on June 26.

MURPHY TO GERMANY

President Obama is expected to appoint a former national finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee to serve as ambassador to Germany, according to reports from Berlin.

The German news magazine, Der Spiegel, Thursday said Phil Murphy, who has served at committee since 2006, would replace Ambassador William R. Timken, a political appointee of President Bush’s who stepped down in January.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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