FRANCH EMBASSY IN BEIJING

Technology Focuses: GLASS | STONE
Designer: ALAIN SARFATI
With a garden at its heart, the 20,000m2 embassy consists of the Chancellery, Consulate, diplomatic residence and private apartments of the Ambassador. Innovative functionality and a bioclimatic design are the result of a site-specific architectural approach and the requirements of a changing world. The complex’s design is an interplay between the indoors and outdoors, at once solidly grounded and superbly ethereal. The rusticated foundation and granite forecourt stand in contrast to the undulating façade overlooking the garden, with its silkscreened glass veil in warm, golden hues lending signature charm. Inside, visitors are welcomed by the warm wood tones of a light-filled atmosphere. This French enclave is enveloped by a wall that is more symbolic than defensive, bordering on the ornamental. It blends in harmoniously with the surrounding cityscape, respectful of the many who frequent this diplomatic zone – the third of its kind in the Chinese capital. The Chancellery, Consulate and diplomatic residence occupy three sides of the complex, while the fourth is laid out with greenhouses, exhibition spaces and winter gardens depending on the season and needs. The residential area and Chancellery are above the reception and meeting rooms respectively, each opening onto the garden. The bioclimatic approach is about taking into account local building conditions. By its very nature, it is the opposite of an “international architecture”, and therefore a few surprises can be expected. Orientation not only influenced esthetic choices but governed location choices from the very start. The residence faces south, allowing light to stream in during the winter months. Sunshades and a gallery with silkscreening on the upper portions of its windows offer respite from the summer sun, acting as an efficient thermal buffer. Likewise, the north façade of the tower, encased in a silk-screened glass veil, is naturally ventilated in summer while in winter the upper and lower vents can be closed to offer insulation. The overall layout and apertures are designed to ensure natural ventilation at every turn, further enhanced by the disposition of the meeting rooms, equipped with light wells like chimneys. The residence gives on to a “patio of metaphors”, providing natural and efficient ventilation there as well. The structure is connected to the district heating system, whose efficiency is boosted by top-quality insulation, windows and woodwork to ensure the expected energy savings. Environment also governed the choice of materials, primarily stone, wood and rubber. The greenhouses, equipped with a Trombe wall in black shale, captures all the warmth of the sun during the day and releases it at night. District heating can complement this natural heating system as needed. From south to west, the adjustable window shades provide efficient and consistent protection from the hot sun. Here as elsewhere, form follows function and interior comfort is paramount. The bioclimatic approach served as guiding principle throughout the entire project, governing all formal choices and opening doors to technical innovation.
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