ST 2019 | Swiss Embassy in Ethiopia© Laurenz Härtl and Signe Schuler
On Proximity and Distance
Within the framework of the two-semester design project, we have developed new perspectives for the Swiss Embassy in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, and thus created an architectural dialogue between two completely different cultures. of different cultures. The building site houses the Swiss national embassy – albeit in the form of several individual buildings that are inadequate in many respects. These were to be replaced by a striking, new overall complex comprising embassy and residence with an appropriate space, representation and security concept.
Embassy buildings represent their country of origin in a visible and immediate way and thus are genuine export architectures. At the same time, however, they are also import architectures, as they rise in cultural, climatic and (urban) architectural contexts that are often completely contrary to this. The following questions have occupied us over two semesters: How can we succeed in overcoming the phenomenon of this de-contextualization? How does a mere transfer architecture become an architecture of dialogue, or in other words: How does one implement an architecture of "Swissness" in the context of an East African capital with a subtropical climate? How is the character of the dialogical in turn compatible with the character of the closed and isolated, which is always inscribed, indeed must be inscribed, in an embassy building?
Teams of two students each went in search of an appropriate architectural answer to the spatial, functional and atmospheric questions of the complex building task "Embassy". By the way, the design project had a strong reference to reality: in the summer of 2018, the Swiss Federal Office for Building and Logistics (BBL) actually held a competition on the same theme. The declared aim of the course was therefore not least to familiarize students with partial aspects of the successful completion of such a competition.
Laurenz Härtl and Signe Schuler present an impressively powerful proposal for a solution with their design for an embassy. The principle of "carrying and loading" serves as a formative concept here. Their design consists of three structures, which locate the customer area, the representative and private residence as well as the administrative area within the security zone. The "load" of this security zone on the customer area and the residence building makes it clearly visible. Due to its comparatively flat cubature, the building blends into the urban context as well as into the sloping topography of the property; vegetation worthy of protection and special existing trees were preserved. Roof overhangs react to the local climate on the Ethiopian plateau. They offer protection from radiation during the central sun and protection from precipitation during the four-month rainy season. Sliding elements made of robust African Bongossi wood provide additional sun protection for the offices in the security zone; their reddish tone lends the building a warm note.