Residence of the Swiss Ambassador in Washington D.C.

Washington, Swiss, Steven Holl

The new residence of the Swiss ambassador in Washington is both a home and a venue for official functions – political, social and cultural. And of course it is also an expression of Swiss architecture and culture...

Situated in park-like grounds in an attractive residential district in the northwest of the city, the building commands a view over to the Washington Monument. Inside, this diagonal axis continues, the main salons being arranged either side of it from the front entrance through to the large terrace. This sequence of overlapping reception areas, which can be flexibly combined as required, dictated the cross-shaped ground plan of the building. Spaced around the outside are four courtyards, all different in design – one is laid out as a herb garden, another contains a reflecting pool. These courtyards open up a range of visual connections between inside and outside, and create interesting perspectives of the building itself.
The private apartments of the ambassador and the staff, plus the guest suites, are -located on the upper floor, reached via the double-height foyer. Open galleries in this -foyer extend the space and the lines of sight. The -materials used on the building skin –
ice-like flint glass and slate-coloured stained concrete – are an abstract reference to the mountains of Switzerland. The courtyards, bounded by light coloured facades, look as if they have been neatly quarried out of a dark monolith. Here the facades are clad with panels of translucent channel glass. Some sections are fitted with transparent double glazing and others are backed with opaque thermal insulation. At night the carved cube seems to glow from within. Square windows and large sliding doors complete the overall -composition. The end walls of the building are of concrete, the surfaces bearing the horizontal markings from the offset boards in the formwork. A planted roof, the use of passive solar energy and sophisticated building systems achieve energy--efficiency levels comparable to the Swiss -Minergie standard.

Steven Holl Architects, New York
Rüssli Architekten, Luzern
Steven Holl, Justin Rüssli
Project architects:
Olaf Schmidt, Stephen O’Dell (Holl), Mimi Kueh (Rüssli)
Structural engineers:
A. F. Steffen Engineers, Luzern
Robert Silman Associates, Washington D.C.
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