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German Chancery

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1964, Egon Eiermann. 4645 Reservoir Rd. NW
  • German Embassy (© Franz Jantzen)

The seemingly simple design and construction of the International Style glass box led to so many bad imitations in America that it is difficult for many to appreciate the lyrical beauty that could be achieved with this type. Much of the excitement of the best of early German modernism, which depended on the precise detailing, exquisite proportioning, and resilience of exposed steel frames holding large expanses of window glass, can be experienced at the German Chancery. The prominent German architect Egon Eiermann drew upon his native Bauhaus and Werkbund design and craft traditions to mix the mechanistic and industrial with the natural and romantic to create an architecturally and metaphorically complex building perfectly suited to its difficult sloping site and not unsympathetic to its residential neighborhood.

In the early 1960s Eiermann stood at the vanguard of architects who wished to invigorate modern architecture by combining structural and decorative elements. In the German Chancery, designed and constructed near the end of his career, he explored the interplay between enclosure and openness in which the decorative and colorful external framing has affinities with Victorian houses. Responding further to the residential neighborhood, Eiermann provided hidden parking for one hundred cars. He minimized the chancery's scale by dematerializing its mass through an exterior steel and wood armature enclosing a series of rectangular boxes (50 feet by 300 feet), terraced perpendicular to the site's declivity, that are one-and-a-half stories near the street but six stories at the building's central core.

Writing Credits

Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee


What's Nearby


Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, "German Chancery", [Washington, District of Columbia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of the District of Columbia, Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 393-394.

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