Embassy of South Africa
Modernization and Expansion
Washington, DC

54,000 SF • 5,020 SQ M

The rehabilitation of the Embassy of South Africa in Washington DC involves the adaptive reuse of two historically significant adjoining structures located on Embassy Row—the Ambassador’s Residence (1936) and the Chancery (1963). Davis Brody Bond was initially commissioned to conduct a feasibility study evaluating the efficiency of the complex and determine if it could be modified to meet current and future programmatic needs of the Embassy. Following the acceptance of the study’s recommendations, Davis Brody Bond developed a design that “respected” the original buildings while expressing the “transparency, equality and modernity” to which the new South African government aspired.

The primary objective of the project focused on the creation of a new, welcoming environment for embassy staff and visitors alike. The original embassy buildings, designed in a Dutch Baroque style, lacked public spaces to open the chancery in support of the Embassy’s outreach mission. The project goal sought to expand the embassy’s public areas, improve its circulation and security, while creating a new image for the complex that symbolized the “New South Africa”. Furthermore, with some chancery functions operating out of the Embassy’s separate Van Ness location roughly two miles away, the embassy also sought to create additional office spaces, consolidating embassy personnel into one central complex.

The design solution captured the exterior space between the two existing structures, creating a two-story lobby atrium as a central event space and point of entry for staff and visitors, and increasing the overall size of the embassy including an expansion of the Ambassador’s Residence. Newly vacated space in the residence, as well as the more efficient interior planning which results from the renovation effort, provides additional office space for the personnel currently located at the Van Ness offices.