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The Royal Danish Embassy, residence and chancellery

After World War II, the Danish Ambassador to the United States, Henrik Kauffmann, thought that Denmark needed a new embassy. At the time, Kaufmann’s idea was very innovative since most countries bought large American mansions to house their representations. Kauffman, however, believed that designing a new building would have several advantages.

Most importantly, Ambassador Kauffmann thought an embassy should represent national values, traditions and ideas. A Washington mansion in the classic style would never be able to reflect Denmark and the diplomatic actions taking place inside the building in the same way a new modern building could.

Entrance to the residence.

The Embassy is designed by the Danish architect, Vilhelm Lauritzen. It was completed in 1960 and was at that time the first modern embassy building in DC. Lauritzen belonged to the European modernist movement. For modernists, architecture was not only an art form – it was also a matter of construction, science, technical skills and functionality. In other words, forms follow function.

Sitting on the hill top at the end of Whitehaven Street, the Embassy today consists of two parts: the Chancellery, containing offices and meeting rooms and the Ambassador’s Residence, where the main floor is being used primarily to host working lunches and dinners, as well as important social and representational functions. The entrance hall of the Ambassador’s residence is used to greet visitors. The design of the entrance leaves guests with a friendly and hospitable first impression.

This first impression is particularly important since, for most people, this is their first impression of Denmark. This first impression also serves to facilitate favorable negotiations and closer ties between Danes and Americans.

Photo credit: Matailong Du

The simple appearance of the exterior of the building is also reflected in the interior. For instance, white marble from Greenland is used on the inside as well as the outside of the building. The white walls combine with large windows, allowing in lots of natural light, making the Embassy appear bright, open and welcoming. In line with Danish modesty, transparency, egalitarian and democratic principles and the modernist architectural style is known for clean lines and humble expressions. The stringent and simple expression from the exterior of the building continues in the interior, designed by Finn Juhl.

The Art in Embassy art pieces are placed in the private residence of the ambassador, which averages 5-7 weekly events, receptions, meetings, dinners, etc. Through Art in Embassy, the building is a unique exhibition venue for Danish contemporary art, craft and design, reflecting Danish cultural and political values.