chapter  7
Desk officers
Pages 16

All buildings in central Washington have to be no more than a certain height. This is one of the reasons why Washington seems so unlike other American cities. But in addition, the road system is not based on the usual kind of North American grid system, but consists of a set of radial thoroughfares imposed upon a grid. These cross one another at various “circles”, which makes driving around the city rather disorienting. Part of being an ethnographer, of course, involves learning the geography of a place. As it happens, nearly all Fund staff have offices in its main building, so I did not find myself getting lost on the streets of Washington160. But I did have considerable difficulty inside the Fund’s building. About a third of the building is subterranean, consisting of various car parks (each floor being painted a different colour to identify it), archives, system administration offices, offset printing and copying facilities, telex and communications offices and much else besides. The above-ground floors, 13 in all, are organised in a way that reflects the hierarchy of the institution: members of the Board are spread out between the 13th and the 12th floors, with the Deputy Managing Directors (DMDs) holding office on the 12th floor. In between these and the ground floor are the various area departments and key reviewing departments. For example, European I Department (basically Western Europe) is on the ninth floor; Middle Eastern on the third; and Policy Development and Review (PDR) dominates the fifth floor. The floors themselves, however, are hard to distinguish from one another. The corridors allow no view onto the outside or onto the atrium on the inside. There are a handful of plants, but few noticeboards or other geographical markers. One can easily get disoriented.