Canadian Embassy, Astana
Client: Foreign Affairs Canada
Size: 81,000 sq.ft. (8,000 sq.m.)
The design of the Canadian Embassy in Seoul creates a dialogue between Korean and Canadian cultures around a shared reverence for nature. This unique site features a 520-year-old tree, called Hakjasu or “scholar” tree, in the historic Jeong-dong district near Deoksoo Palace. The composition pulls back and suspends the two masses, creating an entrance plaza and gathering place with this tree at its focal point. The building base ties these two blocks together with a continuous wooden screen of western red cedar whose soft curves frame the public space around the tree.
The historic context influenced design decisions such as the building materials, organization of the embassy and site design. Materials harmonize with Jeong-dong’s stone, brick and wood in grey to red hues, while extending the undulating palace wall and pedestrian walk. A curved dark grey granite bench invites pedestrians to pause under the tree. At the edge of the plaza, the sound of water draws visitors and pedestrians to the vertical screen fountain that offers glimpses of the walled garden beyond.
The technical and sustainability challenges of the project, including the protection of the ancient tree and maintaining high security requirements, disappear and what remains is an impression of a serene oasis within the walled garden, providing a sense of welcome to its visitors. The design also takes inspiration from the Canadian landscape. The architecture reflects Group of Seven paintings: Tom Thomson’s Evening Canoe Lake and Lawren S. Harris’s Mount Robinson. Canadian red western cedar slats, large glass panels and sensitive hardscape engage the chancery with the neighbourhood while communicating a dignified diplomatic presence