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An architecture competition featuring a £272,000 (CHF 340,000) prize fund is being held to rethink the Swiss Embassy in Marylebone, central London (Deadline: 22 April)
The anonymous contest seeks proposals to restructure and upgrade Switzerland’s Jacques Schader-designed 1971 embassy which occupies a historic mansion and neighbouring Modernist annexe in Bryanston Square close to Marble Arch and is beginning to ‘display significant functional, energy efficiency and organisational shortcomings.’
The project – backed by Switzerland’s Federal Office for Buildings and Logistics – will deliver refurbished spaces for the chancellery along with an area for Switzerland Tourism, several multi-functional semi-public interior spaces, offices for state representatives, and serviced flats. A feasibility study for the upgrade has already been completed by London-based Atelier 5 and Gensler.
According to the brief: ‘The project “Restructuring the Swiss Embassy” will, on the one hand, deal with the cultural, economic, and political context of the guest country at the highest architectural level and, on the other, self-confidently, precisely, and elegantly articulate Swiss values such as a cosmopolitan and modern approach.
‘Attributes that, today, characterise many of the 170 or so embassies of Switzerland which are recognised globally. The architectural project in London intends to symbolise Switzerland as an innovative and successful country and create a sustainable platform which will carry the embassy into a multifaceted and far-reaching new era.’
The Swiss Embassy in London occupies a prominent corner plot fronting Bryanston Place and Montagu Place. The complex includes a 19th Century mansion and a Modernist extension which was completed in 1971 when the embassy was redesigned by the Swiss architect Jacques Schader.
Switzerland has completed a range of embassy upgrades around the world in recent years including an extension to its Berlin chancellery by Diener & Diener Architekten, a new visa office in Beijing by EXH Design, and the conversion of a 1960s house into an embassy for Ivory Coast by Localarchitecture.
Judges for the latest contest will include Jonathan Sergison of London’s Sergison Bates Architects; An Fonteyne from noAarchitecten in Brussels; and Thomas Padmanabhan of Zurich’s Lütjens Padmanabhan Architects.
The competition features a £272,000 (CHF 340,000) prize fund and between five and ten teams will be awarded prizes. The overall winner will receive a design contract to deliver the project. The competition languages are German, French, English and Italian.
Q&A with Switzerland’s Federal Office for Buildings and Logistics
The project backer discusses its ambitions for the competition
Why are you holding an international competition for the Swiss Embassy in London?
The existing building was completed in the 1970s and many of the building’s elements/systems are either no longer fit for purpose or have long exceeded their functional lifespan and need significant upgrade or replacement. In addition to this the energy performance of the existing building falls very short of the standards required to meet the global decarbonisation and sustainability targets. The Federal Office of Buildings and Logistics is committed to seeking the best design response to this problem and hopes an open international competition will provide this.
What is your vision for future of Swiss Embassy in London, and what would you like to see in submissions to the competition?
The resulting project should be an exemplar for sustainable refurbishment. Participants are encouraged to engage with the existing building fabric in their responses. Proposals should build on, innovate, and contribute to the development of a high-quality construction culture (Bau-Kultur).
What role do you see this competition playing in the development of new local, international and underrepresented architectural and design talents, and helping to address the underrepresentation and engagement of many communities in our interpretation of the built environment?
Participation is open to designers who are domiciled or have their place of business in Switzerland or in a signatory state of the GATT/WTO Agreement on Government Procurement, provided that this contractual state grants reciprocal rights.
Are there any recent similar competitions or projects, either locally or internationally, which have delivered impressive results?
The Federal Office of Buildings and Logistics has a proven track record of delivering exemplary new build and refurbishment projects Internationally.
How do you see projects at the Swiss Embassy evolving in the future and what competitions will you hold next?
The Federal Office of Buildings and Logistics has an ongoing programme of development of varying sizes. Many of these projects will also be subject to a competitive form of procurement.
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