Architecture / Interior /

Denton Corker Marshall Shares Everything You Need to Know to Create a Timeless Structure

Australian architecture firm Denton Corker Marshall developed an innovative and functional urban design for the Australian embassy in Patra Kuningan, Jakarta. Known for projects such as the melbourne museum, Anzac Hall at the Australian War memorial, and the Civil Justice Centre in manchester, the firm in this interview shares its vision for creating a timeless structure that would evoke Australia through its design. the interview was edited for length and clarity.

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PHOTOS BY Denton Corker marshall

What did the client originally ask for?

The client brief called for the new complex to be “open and friendly” to employees and visitors alike. maintaining access and interaction while also ensuring a high level of security was also vital, particularly given the 2004 bombing of the previous Australian embassy compound in Jakarta. it was also important for us to create a sense of ownership and privacy for residential staff, e.g., private and rear gardens, while also providing a sense of community through shared facilities, e.g., a communal pool and tennis courts.

How did you interpret the brief?

The Chancery is physically and conceptually the dominant building on the site and is based on the idea of a series of 12 cubic volumes, or “billets”, rising out of the landscape, evoking connotations of powerful Australian landforms without making a direct reference.

How do you describe the Chancery’s design?

Uncomplicated and direct, but at the same time, powerful and memorable. it is unequivocal and confident. it doesn’t look superficially “Australian”, but relies on a more subtle reading of the Australian character. each of the billets is clad in a different metal–zinc, brass, copper, steel, aluminum–metals all mined in Australia, thus reflecting Australia’s natural resources and mineral wealth.

How did you make a secure building against that blends with the natural environment?

Security issues strongly influence the way new embassies are planned and sited, and, consequently, the manner in which they are perceived by staff, visitors and observers. A variety of hard and soft landscape elements were introduced to ensure the building did not look like a fortress and blended with natural environment.

What design elements softened the appearance?

Landscaping was employed generously throughout the compound. in the Chancery precinct, sweeping creepers, covered pergolas and tree canopies provide shade and shelter, and flowering hedges and ground covers form a tapestry of delight. the entry to the executive residence [co-located with the embassy] is via a broad pergola of flowering plants around a reflecting pool. the residence is flanked on either side by rows of jacaranda trees and walled hedges separating it from the staff residences and the Chancery areas. Earthen berms and screen plantings provide protection around the perimeter of the staff residences and a landscaped deck softens the recreation centre.

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Why was it important to incorporate Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD)?

ESD is integral to Denton Corker marshall’s design process. it is important for projects like this to “do the right thing” in their host countries by using state-of-the-art environmental design. regardless of whether or not our clients are targeting a specific sustainability rating, our buildings meet the highest environmental standards in terms of functionality. They visibly demonstrate commitment to the environment through the built form, the selection and use of materials and integration with landscape.

Talk about the green technology used in the embassy.

High tech glass, insulation, photo voltaics and m+e equipment, etc., were combined with more sturdy low-tech solutions for flood retention and water treatment. These technologies reduce the environmental footprint of the embassy and provide a long-term cost saving for the client. The green technology is common, although only the north of Australia is tropical like Jakarta, so ESD responses vary, according to the local climate conditions.

How difficult was it to realize such technology?

Green technology is more difficult in the tropics, but we were able to achieve a lot. Most of the technology was readily
available in indonesia.

How does this building compare against the firm’s other projects, such as the Australian embassies in Beijing and Tokyo?

All three embassies reflect Australia’s national identity without cliches or stereotypes. the scale of the Chancery buildings in all three compounds creates an overall image of Australia that is bold and confident. the beijing embassy used high walls and courtyards to provide wind-protected enclosed spaces around which the embassy opened. the tokyo embassy was set in heritage gardens and responded to its surroundings.

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