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Published: Thursday, September 28, 2006

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Netherlands Embassy Berlin

The client (Netherlands Embassy, Berlin) demanded a solitary building, integrating requirements of conventional civil service security with Dutch openness. A continuous trajectory reaching all eight stories of the embassy shapes the building's internal communication.

By: OMA

Architecture-Page | Netherlands Embassy, Berlin, Germany by OMA
Night View: The brightly illuminated 'trajectory' that underpins the building's internal communication, ventilation system and its relationship to the city is clearly visible.

Project Details

  • Project: Netherlands Embassy Berlin
  • Status: Commission 1997, Completion 2003
  • Client: Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Dienst Gebouwen Buitenland, The Hague
  • Location: Berlin-Mitte, Rolandufer / Klosterstrae
  • Site: Facing street corner, park and riverfront
  • Principal: Rem Koolhaas
  • Project Architect: Michelle Howard, Gro Bonesmo, Erik Schotte (and Project Director)
  • Structure: Royal Haskoning / Arup Berlin
  • Services: Huygen Elwako / Arup Berlin
  • Lighting: OVI, Washington DC, Berlin

Program

8,500m2: offices 4,800m2; housing 1,500m2; parking 2,200m2

Awards

European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture - Mies van der Rohe Award

Architecture-Page | Netherlands Embassy, Berlin, Germany by OMA
View through a portion of the 'trajectory'

In the wake of reunification, the German government decided to relocate the capital to Berlin. The Netherlands, having sold their former embassy site after the war, was free to choose anew. Roland Ufer in Mitte, the oldest Berlin settlement, next to the (new) government district of their main trade partner, was ultimately preferred.

The client demanded a solitary building, integrating requirements of conventional civil service security with Dutch openness.

Traditional (former West Berlin) city planning guidelines demanded the new building to complete the city block in 19th century fashion, the (former East Berlin) city planning officials had an open mind towards a proposal for a freestanding cube on a - block completing - podium.

As such, the design explores a combination of obedience (fulfilling the block's perimeter) and disobedience (building a solitary cube).

A continuous trajectory reaching all eight stories of the embassy shapes the building's internal communication.

Architecture-Page | Netherlands Embassy, Berlin, Germany by OMA
The trajectory is carved out of the cube of the building to explore various relationships with its context - and is clearly legible on the exterior as a sort of emblematic gesture of Dutch openness.

Drawing of the trajectory unfolded [opens in pop-up window - 16 KB image]

The workspaces are the 'leftover areas' after the trajectory was 'carved' out of the cube and are situated along the facade.

Architecture-Page | Netherlands Embassy, Berlin, Germany by OMA
Work spaces and reception areas are light-filled and situated along the exterior walls

Reception spaces are activated inside the cube. Other semi-public spaces are located closer to the facade, and at one point cantilever out over the drop-off area. From the entry, the trajectory leads on via the library, meeting rooms, fitness area and restaurant to the roof terrace.

Architecture-Page | Netherlands Embassy, Berlin, Germany by OMA
The trajectory leads through various kinds of spaces and activities.

The trajectory exploits the relationship with the context, river Spree, Television Tower ('Fernsehturm'), park and wall of embassy residences; part of it is a 'diagonal void' through the building that allows one to see the TV Tower from the park.

The (slightly over pressurized) trajectory works as a main airduct from which fresh air percolates to the offices to be drawn off via the double (plenum) facade. This ventilation concept is part of a strategy to integrate more functions into one element.

Architecture-Page | Netherlands Embassy, Berlin, Germany by OMA
By using a system of intersecting load carrying walls, the structure creates dramatic spatial experiences for public areas within the building.

This integration strategy is also used with the structural concept. The internal walls adjacent to the trajectory are load bearing beams that cross over each other enough to bring loads down. Hereby big open spaces are created on the lower floors of the building.

Architecture-Page | Netherlands Embassy, Berlin, Germany by OMA
View of the 'cube' and the adjacent 'residential wall' with the access road between them.

Architecture-Page | Netherlands Embassy, Berlin, Germany by OMA
The TV Tower is visible at the extreme right.

The access road between 'cube' and 'residential wall' acts as a courtyard- open on one side to a panoramic view over the Spree and the park. In order to emphasize the difference with the surrounding buildings which are clad with stone, the sockle and the wall with the residences are clad with aluminum.

Credits

  • Text: Courtesy of Office for Metropolitan Architecture
  • Photographs: Hans Werlemann (trajectory model photograph); Christian Richters (others); Courtesy of Office for Metropolitan Architecture
  • Compiled by Suprio Bhattacharjee

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