The Norwegian Embassy

by | 08. Aug 2012

Feature | Government

Photo courtesy Snøhetta


Clarity and purity of form are important characteristics in the design of the new Norwegian embassy. The form stands without excess decoration and is solid and massive in its expression.

This can be interpreted as a symbol of strength and longevity and relates the building to the historical roots of Norwegian culture. In addition to this historical context, the monumentality of the form can also be seen as a contemporary expression in terms of its clearly individual directness.

The building is set into a pre-existing master plan and building complex by the architects Berger + Parkkinen. This design was won in an open international competition for the new Nordic Embassies Building Complex in Berlin.

One aspect of Norway, which is unique among the Nordic countries, is the quality of verticality that can be found in the fjords, mountains and tall forests throughout the landscape. This idea as an architectural expression can be found in many traditional Norwegian buildings and is further translated into the new embassy’s south facade. The corner pulls forward, like the prow of a ship or the crest of a mountain, creating a dramatic setting for the entry into the building.

The unique placement of the Norwegian embassy within the Berger + Parkkinen scheme allows for this single point of drama which splits the courtyard into the two separate streetscapes adjoining the Icelandic and Swedish embassies. The vertical design of this facade is created in such a way as to provide a focus within the courtyard without breaking the unity of the scheme within the copper band.


Photo courtesy Snøhetta



Photo courtesy Snøhetta


The thinner southern wall of the Norwegian Embassy is composed of a single, monumental slice of grey Norwegian granite. This monolithic stone weighs approximately 120 tons and is over 14 meters tall, 5 meters wide and up to 70 centimeters thick.


Photo courtesy Snøhetta



Photo courtesy Snøhetta


Having been quarried as a single piece of stone directly from the landscape using a diamond band sawing technique, the monolith has two differing characters on each of its faces. To the public side, the natural condition of the stone is exposed with a series of undisturbed glacial scratches passing diagonally across its entire dimension. The stone also varies in thickness and narrows toward its top and slightly at its base due to the pre-existing condition of the stone at its original site. On the back surface, the diamond band has left an entirely smooth surface that bows outward due to the slack of the diamond cutting band.


Photo courtesy Snøhetta


The effort required to quarry and move the 120 ton stone monolith was surprisingly small compared to what one would expect. The entire piece of stone was quarried over one weekend by three persons. Water pressure was used to lift the slab 15 centimetres from the remaining rock. The task was completed with a great deal of pride by the masons and quarry workers and they easily gestured that they would not have been worried if the demands were greater. The stone has been lifted from its resting place and carried to the nearby sea, after the winter ice has thawed.

The Master Plan ties the complex together by wrapping a “Wall” of 4.000 non-adjustable copper louvers around the buildings and their joint reception and exhibition areas. The verdigris copper louvers also act as a transition from the compact city to Tiergarten, Berlins central park.


Photo courtesy Snøhetta



Photo courtesy Snøhetta


CITY Berlin
ARCHITECT Craig Dykers
Ibrahim El Hayawan
Knut Tronstad
Frank Kristiansen
Pysall Ruge Architekten
Jostein Bjørndahl
Ole Gustavsen