Form follows function in this golden composition by SAREA Alain Sarfati Architecture and GINGER SECHAUD & BOSSUYT in Beijing. The newly completed French Embassy in China spreads over 20,000 sq m and places interior comfort over extravagant design yet manages to retain an integral elegance and charm synonymous with French design.
A granite forecourt welcomes visitors towards two access points; one formal into the reception rooms, the other less formal at the base of the service tower. This service tower is comprised of a series of interlocking golden glass veils which refract the sunlight giving a warm glow to the space within. These rotating blinds offer shade to the interior space which is further protected from the sun by an opaque silk-screened veil.
The internal volumes benefit from natural ventilation and light wells within the meeting rooms provide shafts of sunlight during the day to reduce dependency on costly artificial light. Thorough insulation throughout also reduces the need for excess expenditure on energy.
From all rooms within the French Embassy users can look out onto central garden spaces, decorated with greenhouses, exhibition spaces or winter gardens as needed. The roofs of the greenhouses are coated with Trombe walling in black shale which absorbs the sun’s energy during the day and releases it at night, again reducing the need for additional energy resources. The external landscaping also incorporates a service courtyard, shallow moat and grassed alleys for use by the Embassy visitors.
Across the 20,000 sq m building is the Chancellery, Consulate, diplomatic residence and private apartments of the Ambassador, enveloped in a wall which is ‘more symbolic than defensive’. Of their memorable design, SAREA Alain Sarfati Architecture explains: “With its concentric layout, each built component of the French Embassy is counterbalanced by an open area which seems to extend the space. Like the famed Forbidden City, it is a sanctuary where many pathways may be traced. Designed by a Moroccan-born French architect from Meknes, the ensemble speaks of the meeting of different worlds and inter-cultural dialogue.”