The building stands on a generous plot with magnificent trees. The existing villa, dating from the 1960s, was
sturdy and well laid-out, its horizontal design divided into regular structural units and opening onto the grounds.
The project therefore involved converting a private residence into a workplace fulfilling a representative function, one that would host the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs mission, with its diplomatic and consular sections, as well as an office of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
The new building needed to fulfil the following four objectives: to ensure that the embassy could function
effectively in its new setting; to respect the site and the existing villa; to take the specific local climate conditions
of Côte d’Ivoire into account; and, finally, to embody Swiss values.
The major intervention involved extending the villa on the street side by adding a new “public” building which
houses the consular section, where visas are handled. The new building expands the original villa by extending its horizontal roof, creating a new public façade which is raised above ground level and accessed via a broad stairway. The roof slab rests on concrete pillars – irregularly spaced and set at various angles. As visitors ascend the stairway they are welcomed by a wide external covered gallery. This space acts as a shaded waiting area and also protects the glazed façade from bad weather.
The elongated reception hall has counters dedicated to handling visa applications, enquiries from Swiss citizens
and other consular matters. The space opens onto the building entrance and the greenery of the embassy
gardens. Four counters are set into the back wall, which is lined with strips of Ivorian wood, of various different
species, alternating with vertical mirror strips which reflect the garden outside.
The new public façade is intended to reflect Switzerland’s strength and diversity – the strength of a country that
enjoys tremendous political and economic stability. The pillars convey a sense of discipline and suggest security.
Their slightly angled forms, with edges tilted towards the visitor, express an element of movement within the
system, a welcoming generosity which accommodates diversity. The vertical lines are offset by the slanting
The raw concrete of the construction echoes Abidjan’s magnificent modernist architectural heritage, built during
the 1960s and 1970s, and harmonises with the original villa, also from this period. The power of the concrete and
the sensuality of the formwork timbers, imprinted in the concrete, are qualities this design seeks to celebrate and
re-establish in the local Côte d’Ivoire context. As well as paying homage to the majestic buildings of the recent
past, the use of this material is also adapted to local resources (gravel, sand, cement and formwork timber),
reducing the quantity of materials to be imported.
The new counter wall plays a key role in the design – the interface between the consular staff and local citizens
or Swiss residents. It evokes the exchanges between the two countries, both cultural and economic, by
juxtaposing strips of Ivorian wood with mirrors reflecting the garden around the glazed counter desks.
Rue du Bélier, Cocody Ambassade, 01 B.P. 1914, Abidjan 01, Côte d’Ivoire
5°19’45.0 N , 3°59’35.3 W
march 2013 - april 2014
juillet 2014 - mars 2015
Diplomatic sector, 4 offices
Chancellery sector, 5 offices
Development sector, 2 offices
Visas counters CH/ Waiting room
Rénovation 530 m2
New construction 208 m2
Volume SIA 416
Manuel Bieler, Antoine Robert-Grandpierre and Laurent Saurer founded LOCALARCHITECTURE in Lausanne, Switzerland in 2002.
Their work focuses on developing a responsive architecture that contributes in redefining a context’s harmony and history. Coming from a precise analysis of the «milieux», their architecture explores the notion of the «presence» of a building which is conveyed by an intimate relationship of form and structure.
Localarchitecture has been recognized nationally and internationally in publications and competitions. Recent awards include the Best Award 2015, the Lignum Award in 2015, 2012 and 2009, Distinction Romande d’Architecture Award in 2006 and Bois21 Award in 2005.
Localarchitecture has been involved in teaching for several years, in particular as lecturer at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), and at the National Architecture School of Strasbourg (ENSAS).