HISTORY The complex of flat buildings from the 1950s located in the middle of Bangkok seems like an island. Today, it still radiates the fascination of modern architecture whilst the surrounding gardens with their soaring trees offer a change of pace in this neighbourhood full of high rises. Architect Hans Hofmann, known as the chief architect of the Swiss National Exhibition in 1939 and as professor of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, planned this extraordinary set of buildings in 1957 to serve as the Swiss embassy in Bangkok. Unfortunately he died during the planning phase and the architect Roland Vogel ended up completing the project.
Slim supports and flat roofs with sharp edges projecting far out from the building dominate the appearance of the building. The walls are freely arranged and reinforce the horizontal and vertical composition by means of various kinds of materials such as exposed brick, wood and artificial stone without touching the ceilings. The pavilion represents not only political Switzerland but also modern construction in the tropics. Modelled on the traditional houses in Thailand, the structures have a double roof for natural ventilation. Yet the pavilion began showing the ravages of time. Careless additions combined with worn-out air-conditioning and outdated window fronts prompted the Federal Office for Buildings and Logistics FBL to take a decision to rehabilitate the entire complex. A new gatehouse was erected in connection with the rehab contract. Its purpose is to increase security at the main entrance.
REHABILITATION The symmetrical complex consists of a main wing with three fingers. The necessary cooling is provided by the tranquil water areas topped with plants placed between these fingers. Flat roofs at the various levels extend far beyond the walls and provide shade for the complex. The rehab work covered the entire complex. The interior finishing, furniture, ventilation, façade and representational outdoor space were all completely redone with great attention devoted to improving embassy security.
The windows in the exterior skin of the structure were fitted with better insulated window glazing in aluminium frames and films to protect against the sun. The characteristic patterns in the metal curtains received a fresh coat of paint or were replaced. The striking ventilation grills in the façade were replaced along with the coloured elements the size of windows used for partitioning off the private rooms. The floors and walls in the private area in the middle required refurbishing and new built-in cabinets were installed.
The representational room in the public part of the complex shines with new furniture, wall panels and ventilation integrated in the ceiling. The new fire detection and alarm system helps to increase security. The ambassador works today in an office with new furnishings along with a reception and secretariat to match. The new air-conditioning system and lighting ensure a pleasant indoor climate. The chancery now has more space for the visa department. The waiting room was enlarged, as were the counter areas.
The main entrance was completely rearranged by Rüssli Architekten. The gatehouse is now to the left of the gate and serves as an entrance for guests. The small new building made up of sharp horizontal and vertical slabs of concrete, the gate and the patterned fence pick up on Hofmann’s architectural language and effectively integrate the modernised elements in the existing complex. Employees access the complex on the other side of the gate. The architects selected cast gravel-concrete with a granite frieze as a long-term solution for the driveway pavement.
The rehabilitation has greatly enhanced the public and private rooms in the embassy. The Swiss embassy in Bangkok presents Switzerland as a model country for sustainable architecture.