Embassy of Algeria
J&A Architects LTD - South-Africa
An Embassy is a diplomatic node linking the mainland to the host country. It symbolizes all the traits that are inherent in the mainland: economic, political, cultural and social. However it should also reflect an understanding of local customs, public behavior patterns and human needs. The site is located at the corner of Pretorius and Orient streets in the city of Tshwane, Pretoria and is situated opposite the American Embassy. Other embassies are also located in this posh area with beautiful parks and wide tree bordered streets. We have analysed Algerian architecture to identify dominant design traits .The square appears to be a very strong geometric element from which other forms and figures are derived. Buildings in Northern Africa tend to be introvert because of the heat. Courtyards with a water body and a cool environment produced through wind towers are very common and much appreciated. Finally the moucharabieh is widely used to differentiate spaces and create in-between private environments protected from public scrutiny. Our site analysis of the surrounding urban fabric guides our design lines. They originate from the orientation of the American Embassy, which strongly prompts for a tilting of the proposed building blocks by 45 degrees. Strangely enough, this process brings the building to align itself with the orientation of the Kaaba, an important pillar of Islam. While analyzing the Mecca, one gets a strong sense of nesting whereby one square is set into another one. This has inspired us to the proposed form where a square is abstracted from another square. The Chancery building is an introvert square with a courtyard, sitting on a water body symbolizing the moats of forts and protecting it from agression. In addition, they act as reflection pools to enhance the majesty of the building . Moreover the building is “wrapped” in a protective sheath consisting of a second skin-façade: a blank white wall evolving progressively into a moucharabieh which acts as a brise-soleil at the same time. The main gate, which is the ceremonial entrance, opens onto a paved plaza leading through a bridge over the moat to the entrance hall of the building. A tall square signage tower with moucharabieh is derived from minarets and wind towers in the arab world. The main entrance, much in line with the local architecture presents itself as a double storey curtain wall revealing in filigree a vaulted Islamic arch covering the main lobby of the Chancery. The external envelope of the building, despite its Algerian reference such as the square base, the wind tower and the moucharabieh, is treated in a much contemporary way. Progressively entering the Algerian world through the main lobby the visitor is introduced into the taste of the motherland. Contrarily to the external envelope the courtyard is the heart of the compound and will display openly the traditional Algerian references.
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