Nordic Embassy Complex
Berger + Parkkinen
The decision by the five Nordic countries to build their embassies jointly resulted from several years of cooperation and mutual trust. Financial reasons, including the possibility of utilizing the prime location site efficiently, contributed to quick decision-making. Despite the fact that the project was a joint venture, all countries wished to express their sovereignty and individual culture in their respective buildings.
Berger + Parkkinen were commissioned to design the Common Building, a place for cultural exchange and information, the copper band, the landscaping and the underground facilities. They were further commissioned for the development of the urban design and the coordination. Separate competitions were held in each of the Nordic countries for the design of the different Embassies.
As the entrance building to the complex it is the most visited part of the Nordic embassies. A wide range of activities can take place in an auditorium, exhibition spaces, conference and VIP dining rooms. A restaurant functions as the central meeting place for embassy staff members. The consular sections of all five countries are located here.
The volume of the Common Building is characterized by its relatively closed wooden facades that oppose the glazed open spaces in the interior of the building. At night time the activities taking place in the house appear as a fragmented image through the characteristic slatted wood facade.
The copper band, a sum of copper lamellas mounted on a stainless steel construction, encloses the six buildings as a continuous and autonomous element. The angles at which the copper lamellas are inclined control the amount of permeability for light, view and air. The band wraps the embassy buildings yet only touches parts of them. In some cases it completes courtyards, flowing freely across some distances.
Through the insistent clearness of the buildings inside and the vanishing of the architecture to the landscape of the "Tiergarten" outside, the tension between nature and refined culture is represented. This shows the relation between architecture and untouched nature in the north of Europe. Birch trees accentuates the Nordic character outside the copper band.
The center of the building complex "The Plaza" is covered with natural stone from Norway and Sweden. It forms a half-public space with a strong identity. The spatial perspective of the buildings is strengthened by contrasting stone stripes of Swedish marble with integrated spot lights. The entrance area beneath the canopy are marked with a wood-block paving; a threshold between the urban public space and the internal area of the Embassies. At night the dynamic shaped volume of the soft canopy creates a light-cloud above the entrance.
As a symbol for the ocean connecting all Nordic countries a water basin is cutting through the complex in a clear geometric form and penetrates the copper band on two sides. All five embassies reflect in the water. Above the water the copper band is lightly cut out to allow passers-by some glimpses into the complex without giving access to the building.
The inherent conflict in the task brought out the inevitable questions:
What would represent the unity of the Nordic countries and how to express the individuality of nations?
Six rather small buildings in the condensing centre of Berlin find their weight based on the concept of landschaft rather than the criteria of conventional building. The project was started from the idea of a whole, expressing the unity defined as a 'critical urban mass'. The free form of the mass derives from the site boundary, position of the trees and the location by the Tiergarten park. Through a process of cutting the mass six volumes were isolated. The emerged void between the volumes separates the five characters and is a reminiscent of the original unity. It calls for approach and communication, but also stands for individual decisions.
The geometry of the building volumes were carefully defined in the outline design. To achieve the expression of diversity in the final compound, architects from each Nordic country were invited to contribute the final design of the national embassy buildings.
Facts about Nordic Embassy Complex
Total Site Area:
Gross Floor Area: 15,000 m2
Drees & Sommer Berlin, Dipl.-Ing. Henrik Thomsen
Pysall - Ruge Architekten, Berlin
D.S. Plan, Berlin
Karsten Böcking, Berlin
George Sexton Associates, Washington
Danish Ministry of Housing and Building
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Government Engineering Contracts
Statsbygg / Public Construction + Property
Last updated: December 19, 2013
Seattle, Washington, USA