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Dutch Embassy Ethiopia

The Dutch embassy just outside Addis Ababa occupies a five-hectare steeply sloping site covered in eucalyptus trees. The historical villa on the edge of the site has been extended, while the chancery, ambassador’s residence, three staff dwellings and the gatehouse are all new. The new buildings merge with the surrounding landscape and are connected by a winding roadway.

Dutch-Embassy-By-SeARCH-02 Dutch Embassy Ethiopia / SeARCH

© Christian Richters

Located at the centre of the site are the chancery and ambassador’s residence, both housed in an elongated horizontal volume that looks as if it was carved out of the landscape like a traditional Ethiopian rock temple. The raw concrete façades have the same red colour as the earth. The landscape cuts through the building and separates the two functions. At this point the road sunk into the landscape intersects the building and descends to the covered visitor entrance to the ambassador’s residence. The roof, visible at the point where the road intersects the building, is designed as a shallow pond in reference to the Netherlands, set in the undulating Ethiopian landscape.

Dutch-Embassy-By-SeARCH-04 Dutch Embassy Ethiopia / SeARCH

© Christian Richters

Dutch-Embassy-By-SeARCH-05 Dutch Embassy Ethiopia / SeARCH

© Christian Richters

The chancery is simply arranged with offices along both sides of a central corridor. The corridor rises in tune with the sloping site. The entrance is located at the lowest point at the end of the corridor. The height of the space here allows for the insertion of a mezzanine, which is where the ambassador’s office is located. A stairs rises from the mezzanine to the rooftop pathway that leads to the ambassador’s residence.

Dutch-Embassy-By-SeARCH-06-759x598 Dutch Embassy Ethiopia / SeARCH

© Christian Richters

Dutch-Embassy-By-SeARCH-07-759x966 Dutch Embassy Ethiopia / SeARCH

© Christian Richters

The residence contains formal reception spaces on the upper level and private rooms on the lower level. Voids and patios connect the spaces inside and outside the home. Because of the height difference across the site, both floors are located at ground level and can function independently of each other. Three hidden stairways, for the ambassador, his family and staff, form internal routes from one level to the other.

Dutch-Embassy-By-SeARCH-08 Dutch Embassy Ethiopia / SeARCH

© Christian Richters

Dutch-Embassy-By-SeARCH-09 Dutch Embassy Ethiopia / SeARCH

© Christian Richters


The compound of the Dutch Embassy consists of a five-hectare wooded area that slopes steeply towards the city. The design task was to situate the five individual buildings in the compound while retaining and enhancing the quality of the site’s landscape. The strict horizontal volume of the main building cuts into the hill with the sloping terrain naturally dividing the building into two programmatic units; the ambassador’s residence and the chancellery.

Dutch-Embassy-By-SeARCH-20 Dutch Embassy Ethiopia / SeARCH

© Christian Richters

Dutch-Embassy-By-SeARCH-11 Dutch Embassy Ethiopia / SeARCH

© Christian Richters

The Embassy roof is a shallow pool, an element that combines Dutch tradition in water management and landscape technology, with the natural craggy countryside of Ethiopia. As in the Netherlands everyone lives and works under water. The building is visible at both ends and as the landscape slopes gradually upwards it disappears temporarily, transforming into a pool among the eucalyptus trees.

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© Christian Richters

The other elements of the programme are articulated in a similarly ‘camouflaged’ way; the gatehouse peeks above the entrance wall, wrapped in the colours of the Dutch flag, the extension to the house of the deputy ambassador is slid underneath an existing villa and the three staff houses are built between the north double-wall of the compound.

Dutch-Embassy-By-SeARCH-18 Dutch Embassy Ethiopia / SeARCH

© Christian Richters

Project Data:

Project name: Dutch Embassy Ethiopia
Location: Old Airport Zone, Kifle Ketema – Lideta, Kebele 02/03, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Type: Embassy
Completion Year: 2005


  • 2007 – Agha Khan Award for Architecture

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Architects: SeARCH – Hamerstraat 3, 1021 JT Amsterdam, Netherlands
Project Architects: Bjarne Mastenbroek and Dick Van Gameren
Project Team: Lada Hrsak, Wilmar Groenendijk, Jack Hoogeboom, Jeroen van Mechelen, Matteo Fosso, Miguel Loos, Michael Davis
Text Description: © Courtesy of SeARCH
Images: © Christian Richters


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Dutch Embassy Ethiopia / SeARCH
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