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’ design for this Washington D.C. embassy is culturally symbolic, architecturally harmonious, modernized, sustainable and universally accessible. After all, this building is an essential element of Norway’s largest embassy complex.

Architecture can play a profound role in the diplomatic environment.  Therefore, every element was carefully considered as a means to enhance the experience of staff, guests and diplomatic relations.  In fact, four principles guided this effort: Handlekraft (vigor), Arbeidsglede (joy of work), Profesjonalitet (professionalism) and Åpenhet (openness).

Three primary elements comprise the Embassy’s Chancery: a limestone shell, a cocoon, and a copper-clad mass timber hull.

Limestone Shell

The mass and forms of the Embassy’s limestone-clad stone shell are deliberately segmented and scaled to show deference to the Ambassador’s residence.  Additionally, the limestone 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 Embassy’s wood-finned curtainwall cocoon wraps internal elements including the lobby atrium and Social Hub, as well as extrudes externally to screen rooftop elements. Meanwhile the two-story Social Hub functions as a venue for staff to engage in intellectual dialogue and build community.

Copper-Clad Mass Timber Hull

A copper-clad, mass timber hull demarcates and celebrates diplomatic spaces within the Embassy compound.  Copper is significant because Norway gifted the copper for the Statue of Liberty. So, the new open and gracious entry to the Chancery is clad in copper.  It is also significantly more accessible because it was lowered seven feet and an obtrusive staircase was eliminated.

Like copper, timber is significant in that it recalls the Viking mastery of shipbuilding and woodworking.  Therefore, the Atlantic Ocean Hall—located adjacent to the entry—features a new mass timber structure.  It also incorporates the old garden wall and better underutilizes former courtyard space.  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.

Award-Winning Design

  • Award of Merit, AIA Colorado, 2023
  • Grand Award, AIA DC, 2022
  • LEED Gold, USGBC, 2022
  • Excellence Award, Metal Construction News, 2022
  • Best of the Year Awards Finalist – Government Institutional, Interior Design Magazine, 2022

USGBC LEED Gold-Certification

Sustainable design strategies included:

  • Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction
  • Rainwater Management
  • Heat Island Reduction
  • Optimized Energy Performance
  • Low-Emitting Materials