• Embassy of the Netherlands / Dick Van Gameren and Bjarne Mastenbroek

Architects: Dick Van Gameren and Bjarne Mastenbroek  
Location: Addis Ababa,  Ethiopia
Project Team: Dick Van Gameren and Bjarne Mastenbroek
Interior Décor: Dick Van Gameren and Bjarne Mastenbroek
Project Year: 2005
Photographer: Dick Van Gameren and Bjarne Mastenbroek

Site size: 55'000 m²

The new Embassy of the Netherlands is a building that thrives within its environment, seeking new ways to deal with both the thermal nemesis and the contextual significance of a growing architectural language in Ethiopia's stone architecture. It is a vision that is intended to set an example for a sensitive and sustainable approach towards existing natural and landscape values in Ethiopia

Embassy of the Netherlands / Dick Van Gameren and Bjarne Mastenbroek

From the Project Architects:
The Dutch embassy in Ethiopia lies on the southern outskirts of Addis Ababa, in a eucalyptus grove set amidst urban sprawl. The main building, an elongated horizontal volume of 140 by 15 metres, cuts across the sloping terrain on an east-west axis. Around one third of the way down its length, a driveway passes through it at first-floor level, separating the ambassador’s residence from the chancellery. The flat roof that unites the two parts is a roof garden accessed, where the topography permits, from elevated pathways. Inside the chancellery, offices flank a ramped corridor that climbs the gradient of the site, ending in a patio linked to the roof.

Embassy of the Netherlands / Dick Van Gameren and Bjarne Mastenbroek

Pigmented the same red-ochre as the Ethiopian earth, the walls, floors and ceilings are all composed of the same material, creating the effect of a cavernous space in concrete. While this is reminiscent of the rock-hewn architecture of Ethiopia, the roof garden, with its network of shallow pools, alludes to a Dutch water landscape. Other contemporary Dutch themes are expressed in the building’s programmatic diversity, transparency and daring cantilevers – the totemic sight of the cantilevering roof marks the entry porch at the eastern end.

The compound is a small natural reserve surrounded by urban sprawl. The architects’ guiding theme has been the preservation of this site, minimising the impact of the new construction. The existing topography has been respected, keeping the contour lines unchanged. Care was taken not to disturb the original flora or wildlife. The disposition of the individual programme elements is designed to create maximum privacy, as if each building stood alone in this beautiful natural setting.

Embassy of the Netherlands / Dick Van Gameren and Bjarne Mastenbroek

In finality, a new European embassy in Africa is often an imposed (or at least imported) affair, using materials and human resources brought from outside.

Embassy of the Netherlands / Dick Van Gameren and Bjarne Mastenbroek

The Dutch Embassy in Addis Ababa is different. It was realised entirely by local contractors, using the only widely available local construction material, concrete, coupled with Ethiopian stone and timber for the interior finishes. The brief required new buildings for the ambassador’s residence, chancellery and staff housing, and the renovation of the existing deputy ambassador’s house. Along the way (the project took eight years to realise) a small school was added to the programme.

 

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