Dutch Embassy visit


Thanks to everyone who made it along to the Dutch Embassy yesterday, apologies once again that it had to be a weekday, rather limiting it to people with flexible jobs.

A shame that photography is no longer allowed, and that we had to be followed around by a grumpy security man, but hey.  I managed to take some images when I went last year, and the external parts of the building are pretty easily accessible for that souvenir shot.

Tours as a group or as an individual are pretty easy to arrange, by contacting bln-receptie (at) minbuza.nl.  They need your name, date of birth and passport / ID card number.  Remember to bring your passport/ID card along with you, as if you forget it, you’ll have to try and persuade the grumpy security guard that your driver’s license is sufficient ID, while the group that you’ve arrived with chuckle at your own lack of organisation. Er, I imagine.

My ancient post, plus Flickr images.

A picture of that pot plant, for Katja, as I know she loves ‘em:

Dutch Embassy visit next week


Very short notice, but if you fancy a guided tour of Rem Koolhaas’ Dutch Embassy next Wednesday at 1pm, I need to send them a list of who’s coming by late afternoon tomorrow (Friday 5th Feb).

For each person, I need name, date of birth and a passport or ID card number.


Well worth a visit.  If you want to go along some other time, you can email them direct at bln-receptie(at)minbuza.nl.



Embassies, as you’d expect, often seem like a physical representation of their country, intentional or not.  It’s especially true in Berlin, where so many were recently purpose built (as opposed to say, London, where embassies have taken often taken over existing buildings). 

If you’re not aware already, Berlin’s embassy district, to the south of Tiergarten, is a must for any archi-minded tourist as it provided an opportunity for each nation to show off through the medium of architecture.  The US, France and the UK have theirs not far away, around Pariserplatz, but some have located away from the pack.  In the case of the Dutch (see previous post) they probably felt a bit more ‘urban’ and relaxed on the east side of town.  They’re not a major power broker, but they’re close enough to the action. 

But this doesn’t explain the siting of the Chinese embassy, a further few hundred metres east, on the other side of the Spree, the Chinese.  It seems slightly stranded.  Perhaps, as a newcomer to global power, it didn’t have an existing site that was large enough to reclaim when the wall came down.  I say ‘large enough’, because although the embassy goes largely unnoticed in this odd location, it’s actually colossal.

I cycle past it a lot on my way into the centre of town, and didn’t realise what it was for a while; it’s clearly not a building bothered about what people think of it.  In fact, a less welcoming structure is hard to imagine.  A while ago I stopped to take photos, expecting the police guarding the entrance to ask me what I was doing (I made ready to stand my ground over civil rights if they tried to stop me), but actually they seemed if unbothered, perhaps even slightly embarrassed on behalf of the sheer unfriendliness of what stood behind them.  The only saving grace is that directly across the road is a rather good chinese restaurant.

The embassy (on the right) from the river

and the front, but not really the entrance.  The pedestrian entrance is at the side, and has something ‘cheap sci-fi’ about it:


Enough already about a building I don’t like.  As if to counteract the oppressive effect of the embassy, directly across the river stands something far more inspiring.

It’s an office for the Sozialverband Deutschland, Rolandufer 6, by Léon Wohlhage Wernik Architekten.  The most interesting bit is the interior, where the atrium becomes a sort of greenhouse.

By a bit of a coincidence, Léon Wohlhage Wernik actually did the Indian embassy here in Berlin, as well as offices for the state of Bremen, both worth a visit.

(Final image by snooker68 on Flickr).

Dutch Embassy, Berlin, by Rem Koolhaas/OMA


You’d be forgiven for thinking that I only like writing about arcane housing projects from the eighties.  I do, but I occasionally cast my gaze elsewhere.  By way of proof, I finally got round to visiting the Dutch Embassy the other week, and here are some photos of it, although it was a bit of a grey wet day and I couldn’t be bothered to cross the river to get a better long shot.

Some architecture critics seem to be turning against Koolhaas and his progeny; one that I read recently described the Dutch embassy as, in essence, a ‘first year student project’.  (Interesting how ‘first year student project’ is a popular term of criticism these days – see recent comment on my Am Kupfergraben 10 / David Chipperfield post).  Anyway, I’m not very good at ‘reviewing’ buildings – I think it’s hard to make a definitive judgement on a building when it’s still ’settling in’ to the landscape, but it succeeds well in its function here I think, or at least in projecting an image of the Dutch how I’m guessing they like to be perceived – slightly bonkers, but cool.

The embassy is very much a performance, a visual onslaught of slanting shapes, contrasting textures and theatrical lighting effects.  In fact Berlin architecture over the last eighty years has a strong tradition of theatrical lighting effects, from Hans Poelzig to, er, Albert Speer, and beyond.  That ‘Droog’ look of chandeliers and concrete is about to go out of fashion I suspect, so it will be interesting to see how the building feels in a few years time, when it’s no longer considered cutting edge.

In contrast to Rem’s slightly newer Casa del Musica in Porto, (I mention this ‘cos I was there a few days later) the embassy has less of the ‘just landed alien’ about it, and fits into the surrounding context, at least in terms of height and massing.  Koolhaas apparently aimed to turn the traditional Berlin model of a block with internal courtyard inside-out, resulting in a rather strange arrangement;  the main building is separated from the west and north sides by a kind of free-standing defensive wall, containing services and the ambassador’s quarters (actually, his number two) connected by a tier of footbridges.

The main building is essentially a ramp spiralling upwards through eleven staggered floor levels.  This may be a ‘first year student idea’, but it’s carried out with panache, and without feeling like you’ve come very far, you’re suddenly on the top floor.

If you want to visit, free guided tours are available, by contacting bln-receptie (at) minbuza.nl. You need to give at least four working days notice, as well as your full name, nationality and passport number for each visitor, plus a contact number for the group.  It’s at Klosterstraße 50, 10179 Berlin.

Anyway, some images.  Don’t mind anyone using these, by the way, but would be grateful if you could credit me and/or put a link.  I’ve come across a few elsewhere recently.  Surprising as my photography is pretty amateur…

A strategically placed plant avoids people banging their heads as the floor/ceiling height unexpectedly reduces:

Some fellow visitors are shown the opening in the outer wall through which you could see the top of the TV tower.  If it wasn’t raining.

A sofa in reception, which I think is by Future Systems

Model – note the separate ‘outer wall’.

More images on our Flickr.