Archive for July, 2009

Offset Surface

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Designed by Gert Wingårdh’s and Tomas Hansen, the Swedish Embassy or House of Sweden occupies a prominent and accessible site on the Potomac, near the Watergate Hotel.  In a refreshing break from typical embassy design which features high fences, large setbacks, and secretive security, the House of Sweden invites the passerby in under and around the main floor of the building to enjoy its promenades and vistas.  The ground floor is a transparent level that even has a gallery display space that is open to the public.  I have always been fascinated by the political concept of an embassy.  Specifically how within the walls of that compound there exists patch of area that is literally part of the country’s home territory.  It seems almost like a very small island except instead of water, it is surrounded by another country.   Ordinarily you can only visit another country by expensive means and you almost never get to enter an embassy.  But now, you can visit Sweden easily!

The most notable feature of the design is panalized extra layer that wrapps the exterior surfaces of the building.  Each exterior wall surface is actually composed of two perceivable layers, the opaque wall itself, and then a pane of fritted glass ofset by about 8 inches.  The effect is a shimmering volume that seems both transparent and physically light.