Dienstag, 18. März 2014

The return to the Nordic embassies

Berlin is offering unique opportunities for branding, including for countries. A free city with a lot of creative minds, it creates the adequate context for a large array of particular projects in architecture and public diplomacy. Or two of them brought together. An example: the Nordic Embassies.
I visited the embassies first at the beginning of my stay, part of a cultural diplomacy conference and still find it fascinating. Following models of political cooperation already in place for decades, such as the Nordic Council (1952) and the Nordic Council of Ministers (1971), the so-called Pan Nordic Building reunites in a huge space the diplomatic representations of: Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland. 
After the reunification of Germany and the relocation of the diplomatic missions from Bonn to the new Berlin, many countries were faced with the problem of finding a proper building and in some situation, the problem is still around, due to the lack of inadequate spaces for the diplomatic requirements. The Pan Nordic Building  has elements of all the member countries: the Swedish marble, the natural landscape of trees planted near the building and reminding of the Norwegian woods, the vernacular architecture of Iceland, the copper, the alternation between the light coming through the glass walls and the dark materials etc. The disposition of the countries within the embassy corresponds to the arrangement of the countries on the map.
Besides the separate diplomatic areas, there are a couple of common open spaces reunited in the Felleshus (the building, in Danish) that reunites the disparate spaces and lines in a free area of dialogue. For instance, the exhibition area, at the time of my visit featuring some interesting Finish painters under the motto: 'Hungry for images/Hunger nach Bilden', on the occasion of Finish Cultural Year 2014. At the same building there is an auditorium and a canteen, featuring a Nordic cuisine which is lovely especially in the summer when one can go out on the terrace and admire the Berlin from above. The Nordic embassies are close to the green and quiet Tierpark area, considered the embassy quarter in the capital city.   
At the entrance, there are various leaflets and presentation documents of the coming events, among which film projections, book readings and discussions, conferences on various topics. Guided tours are possible for groups. Inside the space delineated by the copper band around the building, there is the open space of the plaza where it seems that all the contradictory lines of the building are getting together. 
Country branding is always a difficult project and finding the proper messages requires a lot of patience and full political support. The Nordic countries are the living proof of understanding why a common public message is so important, especially if you give up small ambitions. But besides all these geopolitical and intellectual considerations, there is the smart combination between nature and architecture that makes me travel more to the Nordic countries. Meaning that, at least in my case, the branding messages are very efficient.

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