Greater Greater Washington

Architecture


Chalupi Architekti unveils design for Czech Embassy

The Embassy of the Czech Republic has announced a design for a new building to replace an aging facility on Tilden Street in Northwest DC.


Quite cool or just cold?

The current embassy is a not-quite-modernist structure at the edge of Rock Creek Park near Peirce Mill. The new structure will be a postmodern Y-shaped landscraper that clings to the site, in a flattened valley.

The architects are Prague-based Chalupa Architekti; it follows the embassies of Sweden, Sierra Leone, and Turkey in a series of high-profile international projects.

This is going to be a really great building for nighttime parties. The designers conceived of a theatrical center for elite receptions that opens completely to a large garden.

I like the circular pods that are scattered inside and out and in between. They refresh the old Modernist idea of dissolving barriers between the interior and exterior, nature and environment, by bringing it back to the original idea of passing volumes through an envelope.

The front (north) façade is a beautiful composition of frosted glass formed into a curtain. From the side of practicality, the east-facing façade of the office wing is fenestrated and shaded reasonably well for actual daylighting instead of a glass sheet.

The architects fell into some contemporary tropes I dislike. Some of the lines are arbitrarily harsh and unanimated. The glass curtain in front ends bluntly at the roof slab. Likewise, the entrance doesn't stand out on a building that already doesn't address the street well.

Admittedly, it is a diplomatic building, so security concerns will cause designers to skew fortress-like and the surrounding neighborhood is hilly and wooded, full of detached mansions like the Hillwood. Given that, maybe disappearing into the environment is the best course here.

The grass roof slips the building into its site. And if it's not near public transit, it is near great bicycle resources. The shady Rock Creek trail is just feet from the entrance. If the Czechs get on the same bike bandwagon as the Danes and install some changing facilities (it's not clear from the published images if they have them), then it could be a pretty forward-thinking building.

Cross-posted at Цarьchitect. Hat tip to Dezeen.

Neil Flanagan grew up in Ward 3 before graduating from the Yale School of Architecture. He is pursuing an architecture license. He writes on architecture and Russia at цarьchitect

Comments

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I like the architecture criticism posts. I wouldn't mind more. As someone who enjoys architecture but can't really articulate my thoughts (especially with more modern stuff)so I appreciate people who can.

by Canaan on Apr 27, 2010 10:36 pm • linkreport

I agree the night parties might be fabulous but it seems more landscape archtiecture that actual building. Not necesarrily a bad thing if you have the space. Don't know if some of the curves in plan will read as objects in the plan because of their relative size. I do know they'll make for some uncomfortable funnel like spaces, unless it's actually all circulation space.

by Thayer-D on Apr 28, 2010 6:51 am • linkreport

love it. wish more buildings blended in with nature.

by wd on Apr 28, 2010 8:06 am • linkreport

What a great design - lovely and fluid and well thought out - a great example of pushing some boundaries in the public arena

by Katrina on Apr 29, 2010 7:29 am • linkreport

@Canaan

Ditto for me.

by Matthias on Apr 29, 2010 10:46 am • linkreport

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