Wolfgang Rossbauer | Architekt
New Swiss Embassy in Bishkek, Kirgistan.


A World of Constructivists.

Facts: University Project at the ETH Zürich | Chair Markus Peter & Peter Märkli | 2003.

Architecture: Wolfgang Rossbauer.

To design a „new” type of embassy in a Post-Soviet country is an exceptional task - geographically and culturally far away, without any chances to be realized. The utopy of the task allows for, even demands a closer examination into the limits of architecture. The project attempts to launch „new” programmatic ideas to a specific, visionary end.

The embassy is designed as a functional body, representing a platform which can be used in many ways, and serving the purposes of contemporary diplomacy. The ambassador is not the dominant figure at the end of a hierarchical chain, but plays a specific role, enmeshed in a complex network of relationships.

Bishkek is a city with notably great and dense tree population. It appealed to me to seek an architecture which would endorse a dialogue with the trees, with reference to scale and spatial dimension. Although the building bears an imposing volumetric presence on its location, its impact is nevertheless restrained by the surrounding woods. This prevents it from assuming dominance over its neighbourhood.


In opposition to the diverse, loosely structured urban setting, the building is a highly-concentrated construct; an extraterritorial world following its own set of laws. The ground plan has a constraining 4x4 m supporting structure as its constant spatial reference. All three meeting rooms and the hall impact the viewer, by deviating from the strict grid plan with their supporting columns not narrowly spaced as in all other rooms. The space which ensues has a liberating effect. The generous surface area and height of these rooms, as well as their positioning at treetop height, lends them their opulent character.

The outdoor public space feeds into the building through its entry points, that is, from the outside into the softly rounded inner space. The flow then leads via the reception area, veering towards both the café and the ambassador’s entrance, finally reaching the events hall on the second floor. The hall can also be entered privately via spiral staircases, which descend from the upstairs flats like a „boreholes” into the lounge-like meeting rooms. These rooms are thus transformed into ulterior living-rooms. All staff and technical areas are located in the heart of the building. Beginning with the delivery point on the ground floor, they run through the „middle” of the first floor. The central location of these areas enables services to be efficiently and promptly provided. These designated areas occupy a space but remain hidden from view. Their presence can nevertheless be felt by the impression they leave on the public areas of the embassy.

All visible supporting columns are employed to generate space. They accompany the ascent into the hall, for example, and separate the staircase in a subtle manner. The playful distribution of the columns by the stairs causes them to partially lose their static function. The steel construction with its thin, vertical bar elements evokes a surreal-like reinforcment. The façade supports are attached to the building by consoles, and remain on the exterior. This tectonic composition endows the building with a „Constructivist” expressive physiognomy.

3rd Floor (Apartments)

2nd Floor (Event Hall)

1st Floor (Meeting Rooms, Offices, Technical Rooms)

Ground Floor (Vestibule, Cafeteria, Offices, Delivery Access)