GAD Berliners visit the Nordic Embassies
Global Architecture and Design Students in Berlin recently toured the Nordic embassy in their future cities seminar class with Dr, Michael Lafound and James Rob. The complex is comprised of 6 buildings, 5 of which are the embassies of Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland arranged geographically on the site. The 6th building is named the commons house, a place where all of the embassies converge into the complexes main entrance hall, creating a dynamic social space for cultural exchange. The Nordic Embassies were finished in 1999 as a response to the German government relocating back to Berlin after the fall of the wall.
Students found the design of the complex to be striking, with a strong emphasis on materiality choices for each embassy. The materiality choices helped differentiate each, allowing them become a reflection of their countries. As a whole, the Nordic embassies have a unique character compared to other embassies in Berlin. While others such as the U.S Embassy reflected a monumental and fortress like appearance, the Nordic complex embraces transparency and the openness to their surroundings. There are no large barriers or fortified security. Instead, the embassies are revolutionary for opening themselves up, allowing the community to become part of the over 200 events held throughout the year.
This makes for a much more dynamic and socially rich environment, challenging the current standards set in embassy design. While each embassy building is separate, designed by their own architects the site context connects all of the buildings together. A powerful design move to solidify this connection are the water pools in the inner courtyard. These pools represent the connection the five countries have to the ocean, with each building reflecting off of them to the outside of the embassy complex, inviting outsiders to look in.
Unfortunately, because of leaks the pools were emptied when the students toured the site, but even empty the connections were clear and apparent.
The tour of the Nordic embassies proved to be an enriching experience for the students, highlighting perhaps one of the most innovative and invigorating social environments in Berlin today. The transparency conveyed is the highlight of the design, and is an idea that in today’s world and especially in Berlin is demanded by citizens.