United States Embassy, Helsinki
The existing United States Embassy campus in Finland sits on a three acre site just south of downtown Helsinki in the historically significant Kaivopuisto District, a leafy neighborhood that has spectacular views of the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea. The site sits at one of the southernmost points of land in the city where cruise ships and local passenger ferries pass by on a regular basis.
The two existing buildings on the site date between early 1900 and 1939 and the older building in particular suffered from chronic system failures. In addition, the staff has had inadequate space for its needs for quite some time so it was necessary to upgrade the existing buildings. The solution to include a new addition to the older building creates a new Chancery that has significant operational and physical security improvements.
The curved, sculptural shape of the addition is connected to the existing building with a glass enclosed entry lobby offering views of the gulf. A pedestrian only main entry pavilion is located on-axis with the entry lobby and an events terrace is located on the opposite site terminating the axis. Service functions for both buildings have been located on the opposite side at a below grade level away from the neighborhood and out of the line of site from the water and the harbor drive - Ehrenstromintie.
Three principal materials are used to articulate the curved form of the addition and address the different contexts and solar orientations of the facades:
The ground level of the building is anchored by the use of the local black granite of Finland- the ubiquitous stone that can be seen in natural outcroppings around the city.
The west façade, facing the surrounding neighborhood, is constructed in white brick with projecting vertical bands of textured granite, catching the horizontal winter sun and recalling the speckled bark of Finland’s indigenous birch trees.
The northeast façade faces the sea with walls of translucent, textured glass, bringing natural light into the building and creating a light, contemporary expression as seen from the water. By night the glass façade will be back-lit with LED sources- a soft glow creating a visible beacon and iconic presence for the embassy.