Australian Embassy

Location: Brussels, Belgium
Client: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Status: Completed 2014

 

The Australian Embassy to Belgium & Luxembourg and Mission to the European Union & NATO relocated to Level 7, 56 Avenue des Arts, Brussels in March 2013. Requiring a complete refurbishment of the existing tenancy including building services presented significant challenges to a fitout subject to complex IT and security obligations. The chancery of 2800m2 provides space for a number of Government Departments and Agencies and represents Australia’s interests within the EU and NATO in addition to its consular role. The tenancy is located on the top floor of a 1960’s office building within the central European Quarter providing excellent views towards the Royal Palace.  The unique H shaped floor plate maximises natural daylight and views to the South, East and West, these views including the view towards the palace were utilised in the architectural design giving the fitout a level of openness and transparency. The functional planning includes specific gathering spaces, outside of offices and meeting rooms where these views can be experienced and allow an escape from the more pragmatic aspects of the work environment. These opportunities are used as orientation and destination points in the floor plan. The overall architectural design intent was to provide an efficient, yet comfortable working environment for Embassy staff  whilst being representative of Australia through a strong, restrained material and colour palate. Earthy colours are symbolic of the Australian bush and outback and contrast neatly with the cold and architecturally historical environment of Brussels. Their warmth offers an emotive counter point to the glass and steel of the building itself. The design is intended to act as a backdrop to physical personalisation by its inhabitants while providing an environment of calm, sophistication for all who occupy the space. Importantly the design sought to address some of the internal departmental separation of the Embassy and promote a greater level of collaboration and interface between departments. In doing so the design utilised a consistent materials palette throughout allowing for a combination of timber, stone and soft furnishings (in particular the use of leather). The subsequent spaces created offer an array of shared areas including meeting rooms and function type spaces that allow for larger Embassy staff meetings along with smaller meetings for visitors to the Embassy. The fitout was required to meet the limitations of the floor plate, security obligations and functional needs of each Department. This challenge was achieved through working closely with the key representatives of DFAT to address the conflicting needs whilst ensuring the design remained on budget and to program. The project has been well received by those who use the Embassy on a day to day basis and demonstrates the value of a strong client architect relationship.