April 28, 2005
by Canadian Architect
On April 29, the Governor General of Canada will officially open the new Canadian Embassy building in Berlin. The new Embassy is a showcase for Canadian excellence and innovation through its dynamic integration of architectural, artistic, technological and environmental solutions. Located in the heart of the city, it is designed and built to reflect the importance to Canada of Germany as a G8 partner and central player in the European Union.
The site of the new Embassy is rich in historic significance, located beside the former site of the Berlin Wall that divided the old East and West portions of the city. The design is inspired by the metaphor of bridging: between the past and present and between the former East and West Berlin.
The Embassy’s architectural design, created by a team led by Bruce Kuwabara of Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (Toronto), and including Gagnon Letellier Cyr (Quebec City), and Smith Carter (Winnipeg), reflects Canadian creativity and qualities of openness, innovation and diversity.
The building embodies Canada’s regional diversity by using a variety of materials from across the country, including Tyndall limestone from Manitoba, Douglas Fir from British Columbia, black granite and maple from Quebec, and Eramosa marble from Ontario. The design conforms to strict Berlin city planning and environmental sustainability guidelines, and is an eloquent expression of the openness and accessibility of Canada.
One of several environmentally friendly features is a "green roof" designed by Canadian landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander. The design is a stone "waterway" in the shape of the Mackenzie Delta. The building is beginning to be known to Berliners as "the Embassy with the river on top."
Canadian art, reflecting both Canada’s natural heritage and modern orientation, is also highlighted in the new building with five works by Canadian artists that are integrated into its construction. These include a granite floor inlaid with the shape of a river, weather patterns on glass fritted walls, a 21-foot suspended bronze canoe, a room-size compass ring suspended overhead in the magnificent Timber Hall, and autumn woodlands imprinted on the 14-metre louvres. The Berlin Embassy represents the first time that a public call for proposals from artists has been held to commission art integrated into the architecture of a Canadian embassy.
Built as a public-private partnership, and incorporating commercial and residential space into the total building envelope, the Embassy both fits into Berlin’s plans to revitalize its city centre and meets Canada’s requirements for cost efficiency in constructing a new embassy in one of the world’s most important capitals.