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Washington D.C., United States, 2001-2006

PROGRAM: residence including living spaces for ambassador, staff quarters and representational spaces
CLIENT: Swiss Federal Office for Buildings and Logistics (BBL)
SIZE: 23.000 sf
STATUS: completed

This scheme placed first in the competition of ten Swiss-American team's designs for the replacement of the Washington D.C. residence of the Swiss Ambassador. It is not only to be a private house but also a cultural gathering place on which standards and self-image of a country are measured.
Sited on a hill with a direct view through the trees to the Washington monument in the distance, a diagonal line of overlapping spaces drawn through a cruciform courtyard plan was the conceptual starting point. Official arrival spaces and ceremony spaces are connected along this diagonal line on the first level, while private living quarter functions are on the floor above.
Materials are charcoal integral color concrete trimmed in local slate and sand-blasted structural glass planks. Constructed according to Swiss 'Minergie Standard', the south facades use passive solar energy. The roof is a 'sedum' green roof with PVC panels.
The existing natural landscape will be clarified with new walkways and trees, while the plateau of the residence defines an arrival square: a reception courtyard and an herb garden with sub-floor wiring flexibilities.
'The house makes a strong statement about energy consumption, as the Swiss would not settle for American energy standards. They preferred their own far more rigorous rules for conservation in heating and cooling the house, as well as in selecting appliances and kitchen equipment. They also used recycled building materials and installed a 2,000-square-foot green roof of sedum. "We are proud," Mr. Holl remarked at a construction tour of the house last year, "to make a green building in the heart of oil country."'
-Bradford McKee, New York Times
'() The new residence responds directly to "the needs of an ambassador in modern times," in the words of Ambassador Christian Blickenstorfer. That is, in contrast to the existing house, the new one will provide privacy for the ambassador and his family as well as ample, flexible space for today's diplomatic social life. And, with a mysterious mixture of the bold gesture with a reticent, almost secretive air, the new residence will announce itself as belonging architecturally to the 21st century.'
-Benjamin Forgey, Washington Post
'This design - is highly disciplined, taut, and without gratuity. The complexity emerges directly from compounded simplicity, the accumulation of layered precedents developed within the original diagram'.
-Joseph Giovanni, I.D.
'This is an elegant house. It's a fantastic project that is beautifully crafted, and it works sensitively and eloquently with materials as a basis for architectural expression'.
-Oculus: A Publication of the AIA, New York Chapter, June, 2007
'The floor plan of their project reads like a slightly distorted cross. This strikingly literal reference to the Swiss flag unfolds its spatial experience as a complex interlacing of interior and exterior. (...)The building brings to mind the brothers Grimm's fairy tale of Snow White: As her skin was white as snow, her lips red as blood, and her hair black as ebony, the new residence is made of white glass, slate-gray concrete and black terrazzo - these facades and floors offer as many ways of interpretation as the Grimm's tales do. They are, at the same time, abstract and metaphorical, yet they retain a haptic and direct material presence. The result is a sort of estrangement which is simultaneously physical and unreal'.
-Sabine Von Fischer, Werk, bauen + wohen, Novermber 2006
'The New Residence at the Swiss Embassy's aesthetics definitely have generated much buzz in the architectural community. Words used to describe the structure often include ethereal, proportional and masterpiece'.
-Christina Koch, Eco-Structure, January, 2007
'Though many of Steven Holl's projects traverse the globe, they leave only the slightest environmental footprint. Thus, it is the work of Holl and other like-minded architects that is positively impacting the global green trend.'

-Innovative Home, 6/1/2007

Washington Building Congress Craftsmanship Award: Curtainwall, USA, 2007
AIA NY Architecture Honor Award, USA, 2007
RIBA International Award, UK, 2007

landscape architect
– Robert Gissinger

– Steven Holl Architects
Steven Holl (design architect)
Tim Bade, Stephen O'Dell (associate in charge)
Olaf Schmidt (project architect)
Arnault Biou, Peter Englaender, Annette Goderbauer, Li Hu, Irene Vogt (project team)
– Rüssli Architekten AG
Mimi Kueh (project architect)
Justin Rüssli (design architect)
Andreas Gervasi, Phillip Röösli, Rafael Schnyder, Urs Zuercher (project team)

structural engineer
– A. F. & J. Steffen Consulting Engineers
– Robert Silman Associates

mechanical engineer
– B2E Consulting Engineers
– B+B Energietechnik AG

interior designer
– ZedNetwork Hannes Wettstein

general contractor
– James G. Davis Construction
– Niersberger Gebäudetechnik Pforzheim GmbH
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