The theme of unity with the surrounding landscape formed the starting point for the design of the Netherlands Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, designed by Dick van Gameren in association with Bjarne Mastenbroek, whilst working at De Architectengroep.
Located on the edge of the city, the site comprises five hectares of eucalypt forest that descends steeply to a valley. Three new accommodations for staff are placed as terraces against the perimeter wall with open views of the landscape. On the street side, the gatehouse camouflaged in the colours of the Dutch flag peeks over the wall. Situated centrally on the site is an elongated, horizontal volume that houses the chancellery and ambassador’s residence.
An existing historic villa containing the deputy ambassador’s residence has been extended downwards. The chancellery consists of an ascending corridor lined with offices on both sides. At the lowest tip of the corridor is a lofty entrance space with a mezzanine containing the ambassador’s office and stairs to the roof.
The adjacent two-storey residence comprises formal reception areas above and private spaces below, all connected via a series of voids and courtyards. Thanks to the height difference on the site, both floors can be accessed from the ground plane, which enables the spaces to be used independently.
Three concealed staircases connect the floors internally. The elongated volume evokes a traditional Ethiopian rock-cut church sculpted from the landscape.
The facades are made of untreated concrete in the same red tint as the earth.
The landscape divides the volume along the border of the private and public functions. Here, a road passes over the building before dropping to the covered visitor entrance to the residence. The roof is designed as a shallow pond, a subtle reference to water landscapes in the Netherlands.