The Dutch Embassy in Berlin By Oma/Rem Koolhaas
Essay by François Chaslin. Photographs by Candida Höfer.
This past November, Berlin gained yet one more spectacular example of contemporary architecture. The new Dutch Embassy by OMA/Rem Koolhaas has been built on the River Spree in what used to be East Berlin. Renowned for his Kunsthal in Rotterdam, Congrexpo in Lille, and the villa in Bordeaux, among other extraordinary projects, Koolhaas will now also be recognized for his Berlin embassy, a structure that firmly attests to the astonishing design talent of the Netherlands' best-known architect. Two concepts underpin the design for the embassy, the first instigated by the city's strict planning regulations, which require that every corner of a city block be built up. Thus, Koolhaas designed one corner of the site to fit a freestanding cube that houses the actual embassy; the other corners are defined by an L-shaped block of three houses for embassy staff. But the principal organizing element is a continuous route that spirals through the building; the different embassy departments are strung off it discretely. The spiral winds its way through the cube accompanied by new and unexpected views of the building--and of the city. In this publication, sketches, drawings and models illustrate the design's points of departure, and Koolhaas himself expounds upon the project's context. German photographer Candida Höfer, famous for her large-scale color photographs of architectural spaces, offers her personal perspective on the embassy's exterior and interior, while Parisian architecture critic François Chaslin provides a textual analysis.