The New Swiss Embassy in the Kenyan Capital of Nairobi, designed by Lucerne-based architects ro.ma (roeoesli & maeder gmbh, dipl. architekten eth bsa), is an architecturally superior building that represents Switzerland in an appropriate way, while also incorporating local building practices and using local companies. The embassy building shifts between an expression of civic pride and restraint, exploiting various points of reference and bringing together the required aspects of functionality, safety and sustainability in a coherent spatial structure.
By allowing the actual building to grow out of the enclosing perimeter wall (required for compound security), a spiral spatial relationship is created that frames the entire compound, culminating in the central two-storey structure. The building and the wall are both made of dyed exposed concrete and merge to create a uniform architectural structure.
The twisting, multifaceted shape of the building respects the existing distinctive tree-filled landscape. It responds to the slightly sloping north facing site with a split-level arrangement of the floors. The mezzanine sections of the building each contain a functional unit. The connecting element is the central reception hall which pierces the building, acting as the hub of the complex and linking the public, diplomatic and consular areas. The natural light comes from the glazing elements which are used in the suites of rooms that flank the hall on either side and which alternate with the load-bearing wall panels. This regular structure allows for the flexible partitioning of the two outer suites of rooms so that they can be adapted to future needs as and when required. At the same time, the inner (office) glazing conveys an open, transparent and modern approach to office work.
The East African countryside is reflected in the individual character of the building, particularly in the red-brown pigmentation of the exposed concrete of the outer façade and perimeter wall. Thus, the building takes on the colour of the so-called “coffee soil”, the earth found throughout Kenya’s capital, which owes its rich red hue to the high iron content. The generously dimensioned windows are another striking feature, framed with geometrical projecting elements. The glass surfaces reflect the vegetation and make the building itself a part of the landscape. The projecting elements also provide shade.
The geographical distance and logistical aspects presented the architects with a number of challenges They were required to lead an international project team with many project stakeholders from different backgrounds and with different characteristics and opinions.
Client: Swiss Confederation Department of Finance
Bundesamt für Bauten und Logistik BBL (Federal Of ce for Buildings and Logistics), Project manager: Jodok Brunner
Completion year: August 2016
Architecture: ro.ma roeoesli & maeder architekten, DMJ Architects
Construction project management: Mentor Management Ltd
Landscape architect: Concrete Jungle
Civil engineering: BG Ingenieure und Berater AG (Zürich), Metrix Integrated Consultancy
MEP engineers: BG Ingenieure und Berater AG, EAMS Ltd. Consulting Engineers
Photographer: Iwan Baan, www.iwan.com – und Fabio Idini, nicht dieselbe firma