Royal Norwegian Embassy Renovation

Washington, D.C.

Established in 1905, Norway’s Embassy is located on the venerable Embassy Row in Washington, DC between the Vice President’s residence and the National Cathedral.

Fentress Architects designed this essential element of Norway’s largest embassy complex.  The design is culturally symbolic, architecturally harmonious, modernized, sustainable and universally accessible.  Architecture can play a profound role in the diplomatic environment.  Every element was carefully considered from the perspective of staff, guests, and diplomatic relations.  Four principles guided this effort: Handlekraft (vigor), Arbeidsglede (joy of work), Profesjonalitet (professionalism) and Åpenhet (openness).

The transformed Chancery is comprised of three elements: a limestone shell, a cocoon, and a copper-clad mass timber hull. The mass and forms of the limestone-clad stone shell are deliberately segmented and scaled to show deference to the Ambassador’s residence.  The limestone also blends harmoniously with the historic residential neighborhood. While the vast majority of the existing structure and limestone cladding were retained and restored, strategic interventions were made to the stone façade in order to open-up new views of the garden and public street, block undesired views from neighbors, and introduce generous daylight within.

The wood-finned curtainwall cocoon wraps internal elements including the lobby atrium and Social Hub, as well as extrudes externally to screen rooftop elements. The two-story Social Hub functions as a venue for staff to engage in intellectual dialogue and build community.

A copper-clad, mass timber hull demarcates and celebrates diplomatic spaces.  Wrapped in copper, an open, gracious and accessible new entry to the Embassy results from lowering the original lobby structure seven feet and eliminating an associated obtrusive staircase. Copper cladding recalls Norway’s gift of copper for the Statue of Liberty. Adjacent to the entry is Atlantic Ocean Hall, which incorporates the old garden wall better underutilizes former courtyard space.  Atlantic Ocean features a new mass timber structure that recalls Viking mastery of shipbuilding and woodworking. In rhythm with the historic windows, the structure’s spruce columns alternate in a triangular grid, thereby eliminating the need for additional cross bracing and creating a dramatic, yet intimate space for Norwegian hospitality and diplomacy.  The mansard form of the roof is appropriate to the neighborhood and gives the Atlantic Ocean Hall its distinctive shape.