Observations on No. 3 Hans Crescent
by Tyler Survant. Published in Log 46 (Summer 2019).
The Embassy of Ecuador, London, 2016. Photo: Paasikivi.
In London’s upscale Knightsbridge district stands a seven-story apartment building from the mid-1890s, styled in Queen Anne Revival red brick and white trim. The architecture’s volumetric composition is best appreciated in the round: a file of engaged towers and three-sided bays, crowned with assorted domes, conical roofs, and cupolas. Rows of balconies with wrought iron belly balusters, painted white to match the window trim, unify the eclectic massing. Mounted to the lowest balustrade on the building’s northeast corner, a coat of arms bearing an Andean condor announces the Ecuadorian embassy. From this balcony – a liminal space both public and private, at once exterior and still within Ecuador’s sovereign territory – Julian Assange, controversial publisher and founder of WikiLeaks, made his first public appearance after receiving political asylum in August 2012. Assange would remain inside the embassy for nearly seven years, occupying roughly 330 square feet and sleeping in a converted bathroom. Originally a residential apartment, the embassy’s interior once again took on a semblance of domesticity during his tenancy, with diplomatic staff “like family” to Assange, while his private balcony became a political space of appearance, not unlike notable balconies in Buenos Aires or Rome.
Today Julian Assange resides, offline and balcony-less, in prison. His fate and the future of the freedom of the press remain uncertain with possible extradition to the United States, where Assange is under indictment for obtaining and disclosing classified information. In revoking Assange’s asylum in April 2019, Ecuadorian officials recast the political refugee as an unwanted houseguest with rude manners and poor hygiene, citing not the influence of the United States but his violation of “daily-life protocols.” With the line between private and political sufficiently blurred in the embassy, diplomatic tensions manifest as domestic disputes, and political eviction as just a bit of housekeeping. ■
Tyler Survant, “Observations on No. 3 Hans Crescent,” Log 46 (2019): 112.