Steven Holl - The Residence at the Swiss Embassy Print
Monday, 16 June 2008 02:52

While deeply rooted in Modern Architecture, the language of Steven Holl’s architecture possesses the flexibility to adapt itself to a wide range of building types, providing unique solutions that are specific to the project and its requirements.
The official residence of the Swiss Ambassador to the United States in Washington, D.C. is actually a multifunctional microcosm of private life and work space and official reception and service areas.

Photographs © copyright Andy Ryan

Beside its obvious function as a living space, It serves as a cultural institution setting itself as a national architectural and artistic symbol. In addition, it is an extension of the Swiss Embassy’s work space and will be used for official functions.  It is estimated that approximately 400 working events with over 3000 guests will be organized here annually.

Steven Holl Architects, in collaboration with the Swiss firm Rüssli Architects, won the anonymous international competition over ten other architects in 2001. The design was unanimously selected for its central concept of moving diagonally through space.

Sited on a hill with a direct view to the Washington Monument in the distance, the building’s design is based on overlapping spaces drawn through a cruciform courtyard plan. From the entrance hall, one can see diagonally through the building to the terrace and on to the Monument.



The residence is positioned on a plateau with an arrival square, a reflecting pool, a reception courtyard and an herb garden. Among the public areas are two formal dining rooms, three salons, one reception hall and a stone terrace that offers spectacular views of Washington, D.C. Each of these functions connects directly to an outdoor space that can accommodate groups up to 200 people.

The private areas are located on the second floor and include the Ambassador’s living quarters, two guest rooms and staff rooms.


The material of the residence is an important feature of the design. The building’s charcoal color concrete and sand-blasted translucent structural glass planks were inspired by the black rocks and white snow of the Swiss Alps. The floors are made of black terrazzo and dark stained bamboo, a highly renewable resource.

Steven Holl Architects constructed the residence according to Swiss “Minergie Standards,” a higher level than the US Council for Green Building’s LEED standards, to keep overall energy consumption low. While the south façade use passive solar energy, the low maintenance “sedum” green roof with PVC panels provides considerable energy savings by serving as a fifth green façade.






Green aspects SWISS EMBASSY

• Green roof for water retention, reduced heat island effect

• Recycled glass in terrazzo on ground floor

• Fast re-growing stained bamboo flooring second floor

• Highly insulated building skin (high performance IGUs, 8” insulated stud walls)

• High efficiency mechanical equipment from Germany /Switzerland

• External sunshades digitally controlled to respond to heat/solar gain on inside

•  Passive solar use on south side



All material are courtesy of Steven Holl Architects.
Photographs © copyright Andy Ryan

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Last Updated on Friday, 20 November 2009 22:21