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In April, the OBO introduced design excellence as its new watchword. American diplomatic building projects, the bureau now declares on its website, represent “the best in American architecture, engineering, technology, and sustainability, art, culture and construction execution.”

“Because planning and construction take time, you won’t see the full effect for a few years,” says Ms. Foushee. “The new approach is a holistic approach, really, to get the best value for the money, as well as excellence in design — a whole approach to bettering our process.”

Ms. Foushee points to the proposed new embassy in London as a step towards what the OBO envisions will be the embassy of the future. The projected $1 billion structure of blast-resistant glass covered with a quiltlike polymer scrim stands on columns and is protected by a moat on one side and a terraced park partly open to the public on the other.

Designed by Philadelphia architect James Timberlake, the building — to be completed in 2017 — inevitably has its critics. The Financial Times referred to it as the “glazed green cube embassy.”

And don’t imagine terrorism concerns have vanished.

Like many other recently planned U.S. embassies, the new embassy site in London would be removed from the center of the city — in Wandsworth, a riverside area of light-industry factories, and therefore less exposed to pedestrian attack.

The new embassy in Malta is being built on the site of a one-time World War II Royal Air Force base, several miles from the capital, Valletta.

It appears host-country residents may come to admire the new U.S. embassies after all. If, that is, they can find them.