Gallery: SWISS RESIDENCE by Steven Holl

Steven Holl, Swiss Residence, Swiss Ambassador

All images copyright Andy Ryan –

Okay, so at first glance, Steven Holl’s new eco-friendly building seems a little austere. But let’s put it into context: “inspired by the black rocks and white snow of the Swiss Alps,” it seems just about right. Designed in partnership with the Swiss firm Russli Architects, this official residence for the Swiss Ambassador in D.C. will be open and ready for business on September 16th. So what is it about Holl’s design that unanimously set it apart from all of the other Swiss-American teams competing for the job?

Well for starters, it was NOT designed to the USGBC’s LEED standards:

Instead, the team designed the residence in accordance with the Swiss “Minergie Standards,” which we’re told surpass LEED certification requirements. The project incorporates passive solar energy on the south façade and a green roof, keeping energy consumption low.

The building’s concept is based on diagonal movement through the adjoined spaces, which overlap around a cruciform plan – providing a view through the building of the Washington Monument. And what about those black rocks and white snow? The materials provide a color and texture contrast against each other. Charcoal colored concrete against sandblasted, structural glass panels. White walls against black terrazzo and rich, dark stained bamboo floors.

Steven Holl Architects has built a deep repertoire of projects. One of the greener projects to be completed is the Whitney Water Purification Facility in Connecticut, which serves as a water treatment station and educational park. This facility incorporates several sustainable attributes including a ground water heat pump system, green roof, and bird sanctuary for migrating species. For more information on Steven Holl Architects, visit their website at

+ Swiss Residence by Steven Holl
+ Andy Ryan architectural photography


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  1. Inhabitat » STEVE... July 12, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    […] may think that we have a small obsession with Steven Holl (see here, here, here, here, here and here), but it’s hard to not be excited whenever a new Holl design surfaces. His […]

  2. Timo March 8, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    masterful in many ways, however, it is expensive, rather palatial for a part-time residence, and frankly the semi-opaque wall/ window cladding would drive me crazy.
    that being said, i think that it is beautiful and, as elaborated by other commentators, the harmony and balance of space, color, light, and material is nothing short of exceptional.
    alas, this is no solution to housing humanity; but for the most well off 0,5% it might be just the thing.

  3. ProgGrrl September 11, 2006 at 6:26 pm

    This is great…when this house is open, and the Ambassador starts having various US movers & shakers over to visit, more and more people will give thought to LEED and other building standards.

    Wonderful news.

  4. Carl September 6, 2006 at 1:55 am

    Steven Holl’s genius is proven once again. Yes, the goal is a greener set of building that house the rest of the world. But, I pose this question… “What happens when there are two equally eco-friendly designs but the aesthetics are different, is it then left to what we ‘like’?” Can there be a moment when technology & buildings produce more energy than necessary, are more efficient then applicable, and we are merely left with aesthetic?

  5. Richie September 5, 2006 at 4:22 pm

    A true masterpeice !

    As far as ‘austere’ goes… lets play a mindgame. Imagine it in a different, more lively, colorscheme… or with different, ‘warmer’, exterior treatments on the darker surfaces. Voila ! It no longer seems ‘austere’ that way. Do you agree ? So maybe the client’s approved colorsheme is what is austere… not the design itself ?

    The thing to ‘see’ here, are the wonderful interior volumes, created by the dimension and proportion of this design. Just from viewing these few photos, one can get a sense of how calm, serene and pleasing it would be to inhabit these spaces. This design is a classic in much the same vein that Luis Barragan’s creations are. It’s deceptively simple and profoundly beautiful in a mysterious way — due to the proportional elements of it’s design. It’s all about ‘balance’. It’s about the thickness of the walls in relationship to the height of the interior and exterior, the window opening dimensions relative to the height & width of the walls, the combination of forms intertwined and melded into other forms and more. The colorscheme and exterior treatment are secondary, not primary, just like the clothes we wear only ‘dress up’ the fundameental. This house, like Barragn’s works, breaks the design down to it’s simplest statement. There is nothing extraneous. It’s just beauty… pure and simple.

  6. Marc Fink September 5, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    The distinctive sandblasted channel glass at the new Swiss Embassy residence was provided by Bendheim Wall Systems. The LINIT glass installed has a number of characteristics unique to channel glass from the Lamberts factory: 1) Solar texture – fine mesh pattern producing a veiled effect 2)low iron glass – reduces the greenish tint, particularly in the flanges and edges of the channels 3) factory tempered, SGCC certified, and 100% heat soak tested – an added degree of safety determined at the source, verified by an independent third party. BWS is proud to have also supplied the channel glass for Steven Holl’s projects at Higgins Hall/Pratt Institute and the Bloch Building/Nelson-Atkins Museum. Our knowledgeable team looks forward to your questions and we will assist you in creating an award-winning project, such as those seen on our web site. For more information on how you can create eye-catching images for sophisticated exterior and interior projects, call Marc Fink at 800-221-7379 X223.

  7. Jill September 4, 2006 at 3:11 pm

    I love the translucent glowing walls on the south facade – I think this building is gorgeous, and really quite ethereal – at least in terms of the windows/translucent siding. Go Steven Holl!

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