The Danish Embassy in Washington D.C.

  • Client

    The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs

  • Location

    3200 Whitehaven Street, Washington, USA

  • Area

    2,200 m2

  • Status

    Completed in 1960, renovated in 2003

The embassy demonstrates Danish design from inside out

On the edge of Washington's embassy quarter at 3200 Whitehaven Street is the Embassy of Denmark in the USA – a modernist building that borders the scenic Dumbarton Oaks Park to the south and west.

The land was bought in 1952 by the then ambassador, Henrik Kauffmann, and it is located in one of Washington's highest and best located areas. He made the land available for a new embassy to be built. The former embassy no longer met the current needs – it was not flexible enough in its layout. A new, modern building would be able to meet requirements for both safety and efficiency and require less maintenance. In addition, it was possible to establish an ambassador's residence in an adjacent building.

Vilhelm Lauritzen was guided by the functional requirements of this new building. The humid climate in Washington was markedly different from the Danish one, which made great demands on the choice of materials. Vilhelm Lauritzen wanted to create a practical workplace in a comfortable environment. He was very careful to make full use of the beautiful location and the easily accessible rural surroundings. For him, it was important that the users of the house could enjoy nature from as many places as possible when they stayed inside and outside.

As an extension of the residential part, a garden pool was built with a view towards the trees. It was originally given to the "ladies of the embassy" by Ambassador Henrik Kauffmann.

Rich facade design in Greenlandic marble - furnished by Finn Juhl

The different functions were clearly expressed in the facades. The office wing appeared anonymous and restrained, while the residence received a richer facade design with balconies, sliding doors, shutters and free-standing columns. The exterior of the building appeared simple, light and friendly. It was built in reinforced concrete and both inside and outside it was covered with Greenlandic marble.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also asked Vilhelm Lauritzen to design the home, as they wanted it to represent Danish design. Vilhelm Lauritzen therefore asked his friend and colleague Finn Juhl, who was previously employed at the design studio 1937-46, for assistance.

"The Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Copenhagen asked me to arrange the furnishings and at the same time told me that it should be representative of modern Danish design. I felt that is was a very demanding job – which could be better done, if I asked my friend Finn Juhl, who, I think, is known also in this country as a very fine designer, to take over the most important part of the job, the furnishing of the residence. I am glad he did it and I feel he has done a very fine job.”

– Vilhelm Lauritzen on the collaboration with Finn Juhl in his inaugural speech.

"We think that the architects and the builders have done a good job. And I wish to thank them and every one who has been attached to this project very much.”
King Frederik IX of Denmark at the embassy inauguration, Oct. 12th 1960
Other projects
Water Culture House
The Vilhelm Lauritzen Terminal - Copenhagen Airport
The Radio House