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Embassy of Switzerland


By moving to a (now) renovated and extended 1960s villa, once the residence of the Norwegian ambassador, the Embassy of Switzerland in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) has relocated to a less congested, more accessible district of the capital. Transforming a former private residence into a diplomatic seat, symbol of a country’s values and a centre for international cooperation programmes and services to the public, required a finely tuned architectural programme. The existing building, one of the most noteworthy on the local scene, has a series of assertive characteristics. A low horizontal volume with a regularly sectioned frontage, it is surrounded by luxuriant grounds. The functional reconversion programme adopted a twofold strategy. First, the pre-existing villa was left untouched, even if renovated with the addition of state-of-the-art technologies compatible with its residential function. Second, an extension was built on the east towards the access road to house the embassy’s assistance and public service consular functions, such as visa issuance.
Although standing out and immediately recognizable as a place of representation, the new extension has been kept at the same height as the original villa to give a sense of horizontal continuity.
Standing imposingly on a base slab - an artificially level plinth to offset the slight slope of the plot - the new section forms a “pronaos” to the older building. On the south side, the overhang of the imposing roof is an arresting feature, a modern style trabeation. A narrow flight of stairs leads up to the front portico, an open shaded interim space before entering a glazed hall where counters receiving the public stand along a wall clad with strips of local wood interspersed by glazing panels. Several architectural elements have been slightly skewed to great effect. The short flight of stairs has been placed slightly off centre vis-à-vis the elevation; the large...

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