Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced that the new Australian Embassy will be designed by the Australian firm Bates Smart and is expected to be completed in the year 2021. Bates Smart, who also designed the current embassy that is now being replaced due to its age and state of disrepair, recently revealed the stunning designs for this new $237 million environmentally-friendly and spacious government structure.
In 2015, it was announced that the current Australian Embassy building, designed in 1964 and situated on Embassy Row at 1601 Massachusetts Avenue NW, at Scott Circle in D.C., was in a poor and dangerous state of deterioration—beginning in 2014, supports and scaffolding had been added to the façade in a protective and preventative safety measure. A new embassy was clearly needed. Tom McIlroy of The Sydney Morning Herald explains that “the cost of required renovations to improve amenity and occupational health and safety [was] considered equivalent to the cost of a new building.” In partnership with the D.C. firm Karn Charuhas Chapman & Twohey (KCCT), Bates Smart has now completed and shared its fresh embassy vision.
Bates Smart has been in continual practice for over 160 years and specializes in interior design, architecture, urban design, and various other design services from their bases in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia. They were co-creators of Melbourne’s famous Federation Square as well as the new Australian Embassy in Berlin. They share that their award-winning projects take complex social and economic forces into consideration and “transform the city fabric and the way people use and inhabit urban spaces and built environments.” They explain that they see their clients as partners and believe in questioning assumptions and testing solutions to build transformational buildings. Bates Smart has a staff of over 200 and KCCT has a team of 50. KCCT works in architecture, interior design, construction administration, and various other building and planning services. Their site says that they offer “the responsive service of a small firm, while furnishing the full-service design expertise typical of larger practices.”
The new Australia Embassy that Bates Smart and KCCT were hired by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to design will be about 206,700 square feet. It functions as a symbol for the country and continent of Australia by directly referencing its landscape, climate, and ecosystem in its design. Architecture Daily shares this description from Bates Smart of the symbolism: “the environmentally sensitive design embodies the spirit of Australia through direct references to the distinctive Australian landscape: its bright and clear natural light and open skies, its warm materiality, and its vast scale.”
The center of this angular, window-lined building is filled with an expansive atrium. A wide, inviting public space takes up the first floor and has been designed to host a wide range of embassy events and functions, including exhibits, ceremonies, and other gatherings. The current Australian Embassy also holds a gallery space that often hosts wine tastings and cultural events and openings. The upper floors of the new embassy will be where the diplomatic work takes place. According to Bates Smart, these working areas overlooking the deep atrium are part of “a highly contemporary, healthy, and open workspace setting.” This modern and attractive space comes with views of the White House and several environmentally sensitive design solutions.
The embassy, which claims to hold the highest possible global environmental design standards, will have a green roof, an “extensive” photovoltaic array providing solar energy, and will rely heavily on natural light, along with other green building service technologies. A green roof is a type of roofing system that inserts a green environment into a preexisting roof. The roof has to be adequately prepared to keep out water, repel roots, and drain properly, and must be planted with growing flora that is not too heavy for the structure to bear. As well as being aesthetic, GreenRoofs.org explains that green roofs offer benefits in “waste diversion, stormwater management, improved air quality, and moderation of the urban heat island effect.” The urban heat island effect occurs when the increased human activities in metropolises create an area that is significantly warmer than nearby, non-urban locales.
A photovoltaic system, AKA solar PV power system, uses photovoltaics to convey solar power. Photovoltaic or PV power conversion describes the process through which light becomes electricity with the use of semi-conducive materials. A photovoltaic system typically includes solar panels, a solar converter which controls the electric current, and various mounting and accessory electrical equipment. Photovoltaic systems create zero pollution.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade shares that this new embassy “reinforces the strength of Australia’s relationship with the United States while promoting a vision of a contemporary and innovative Australia.” Kristen Whittle, Director of Bates Smart, told Architecture Daily that, “it is with great pride that we have the opportunity to replace this building with the next generation of Bates Smart design,” and that the new Australian Embassy “has been inspired by the unique and beguiling beauty of the Australian landscape,” and “has a refined and rich materiality which will make it stand out in Washington.” Construction begins in 2019 and if the building schedule stays on track, we can look forward to seeing this new embassy in about four years. You can visit the website for the Australian Embassy here and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.