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About the Embassy

Read about the architectonic history of Embassy of Denmark, the famous Danish architect Vilhelm Lauritzen, who designed the building and take a virtual tour of the residence and chancellery.

The Daily Work

The Danish Embassy in Washington, D.C. is the initial point of contact for a diverse range of people and inquiries daily. The embassy can assist you with general and media inquiries and our commercial section can assist with your trade inquiries.

 

Tour of the Embassy
The embassy residence is open to the public twice a year, typically late December and early May as part of EU Open House Day. Information about the open house events and dates will be posted on our website.

Architects and design interested may request a tour of the residence - by appointment only. Limited availability. Please contact wasamb@um.dk or call +1 (202) 234-4300.

The first modern embassy

It was just after World War II when Denmark came forward with a ground-breaking idea of constructing a completely new, modern embassy on a recently purchased hilltop in Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC.

No country had ever done this before the Embassy of Denmark became the first modern embassy in the United States. Built in 1960 the embassy celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2020.

The architectural history of the Embassy

Built in 1960 as the first modern embassy in Washington DC, the Danish Embassy has a fascinating story as well as a distinguished Danish architectural design.

 

Bulding on an idea

After World War II, Danish Ambassador to the United States Henrik Kauffmann (1888–1963) suggested that Denmark needed a new embassy building. At the time, Kaufmann’s idea was very innovative since most countries bought large American mansions to house their representations. The Danish Ambassador, 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.

Ambassador Kaufmann was convinced Washington would become an even greater centre for world politics than it was in 1953.

Reasons for constructing a new embassy were also very practical. While buying an existing mansion might have been the cheapest solution, Ambassador Kaufmann believed placing offices in the same building as the Ambassador’s residence would lower expenses in the long term. Kauffmann wrote:

“If the different sections are gathered in one new and modern decorated building the work will be more efficient, several expenses will be reduced and some will even vanish completely. The love of work will increase and the number of days lost through illness will go down.”

Placing the Ambassador’s residence in the same building as the chancellery would also lower costs by reducing transportation time to and from the Embassy as well as reducing the need for maintenance staff.

 

The building

Standing on the hilltop at the end of Whitehaven Street, the building today consists of two parts: the chancellery, containing all the offices, and the Ambassador’s residence with the representation rooms.

The entrance hall of the Ambassador’s residence – which functions as a large and open porch – greets visitors. The design of the entrance leaves guests with a friendly and hospitable first impression.

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

The interior is stately and dignified, but at the same time, unpretentious. In line with Danish modesty, equalitarianism and democratic principles, the modernist architectural style is known for clean lines and humble expressions.

 

The architect Vilhelm Lauritzen

"My mind is free, it does what it likes; and it is free because only I know what it is doing. I often envy my mind" - Vilhelm Lauritzen, Architect. Vilhelm Lauritzen 1894 - 1984 is the architect behind the Royal Danish Embassy in Washington, DC.

Lauritzen has contributed to modernism in Danish architecture with a number of outstanding buildings, often with representative institutions of importance but also villas and apartment buildings. In 1921 he graduated as an architect from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture in Copenhagen. And in 1922 he established studio Vilhelm Lauritzen, which is still functioning today.

Founder of Bauhaus

The TAC and German-American architect Waler Gropius was Lauritzen’s U.S. collaborator on the Danish Embassy in Washington. Gropius was founder of Bauhaus School in Germany. He had great influence on the development of modernism and is considered one of the most prominent European architects in the 20th century.

Modernism

Vilhelm Lauritzen met with Walter Gropius in 1953. Lauritzen, however, was quite familiar with Gropius’ building before they met. Like so many other contemporary Danish architects, in 1927 he was on tour in Central Europe where there were many new, ground-breaking buildings to see. The modern and functional architec-ture made a great impression on Lauritzen.

Lauritzen believed that architecture was an applied art. He believed that the architect must not lose himself in either architectural function or aesthe-tics. Thoughts that dominated Lauritzen work as an architect and therefore also reflected in the design of the embassy in Washington

Among Lauritzen’s mayor works are the terminal buildings at Copenhagen Airport (1937.39 and 1955-60) and the former National Broadcasting Building in Copenhagen (1936-41)

Building in Washington

The climate conditions in Washington are very different from conditions in Denmark. Hence, Washington’s high humidity and high temperatures played a key role in the selection of materials for the building – particularly regarding selection of windows and technical equipment.

The architects wanted the offices to be practical with a comfortable working environment and, at the same time, create a worthy frame for the work taking place therein. It was important that the building reflected traditional Danish architectural values – even though the style and construction of the building as well as the geographic and financial conditions were American.

Danish-American Cooperation

The project as a whole illustrates the close cooperation and strong, centuries old diplomatic ties between the two countries.

In fact, diplomatic ties between the United States and Denmark date to 1791, making Denmark the country with the longest standing diplomatic history with the United States.

The Royal Danish Embassy captures this unique relationship and is in itself an important ambassador for Danish interests, ideas and values. Vilhelm Lauritzen proudly expressed American satisfaction with the final result in a letter home:

“An American colleague [Benjamin C. Thompson from-TAC] was here yesterday, and said that it was the only building in Washington worth looking at.”