House for Sweden
The architecture of the embassy emphasizes transparency rather than barriers, but it is also intended as a response to a new type of diplomacy that includes a commercial component. In addition to the traditional affairs of a diplomatic mission, the event center is designed to accommodate public and commercial functions such as conferences and exhibitions.
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The expanded agenda of the chancellery is reflected in the variety of spaces: the exhibition space on the first floor, with sliding doors that open it to the outside in suitable weather; the lower-level auditorium; and 19 corporate apartments on the upper floors for lease by Swedish firms, several with balconies overlooking the Potomac.
The exterior glazed balconies provide an extra layer of privacy and shade for the apartments and offices. Translucent wood veneer was the architects' first choice for the balconies, but because of concerns about the effects of high humidity on thin layers of wood, a computer-generated wood texture was printed on film and laminated between sheets of glass. When backlit at night, it creates the low-light effect of the setting sun in northern latitudes.
Blond maple veneer is used extensively throughout the interior, as is etched glass with a scrim of mistlike white dots that shifts from opaque to transparent according to the density of the gradient in the dot screen and the application — it disappears almost entirely around stair balustrades.
This shift from presence to absence reinforces the building's formal theme of openness and transparency as the basis of Swedish politics and culture, the more-solid upper levels supported by a semitransparent base.
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Christine Killory is an architect and principal of Davids Killory Architecture in Berkeley, California. She has taught architecture at the University of Southern California, the University of California, San Diego, and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
René Carlos Davids is an architect, a professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and a principal of Davids Killory Architecture. He has also taught at the Architectural Association School in London, the Royal College of Art, UC San Diego, the Catholic University in Santiago, Chile, and as a visiting professor at the University of New Mexico.
This article is excerpted from Detail in Process, edited by Christine Killory and René Davids, copyright © 2008, with permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press.
Design Architect: Wingårdh Arkitektkontor AB
Designers: Gert Wingårdh and Tomas Hansen
Architect of Record: VOA Associates Incorporated
General Contractor: Armada Hoffler Construction Company (exteriors); Monarc Construction (interiors)
Developer: Lano/ Armada HarbourSide LLC
Project Manager: Karchem Properties, Inc.
MEP Engineering/ Base Building: TOLK Inc.
MEP Engineering/ Interiors: Joseph R. Loring & Associates
Structural Engineering: Tadjer-Cohen-Edelson Associates
Landscape Architecture: EDAW, Inc.
Civil Engineering: Edwards and Kelcey