Residence of the Spanish Embassy in Australia / Mateo Arquitectura

Residence of the Spanish Embassy in Australia / Mateo Arquitectura

Spanish architects Mateo Arquitectura have shared with us their project for the official residence of the Spanish Embassy in Canberra, Australia.

More images and architect’s description, after the break.

We were familiar with Canberra because of its exceptional urban layout. The new capital with its centres of power set in a circle radiates the streets outwards from the centre.

Our site forms part of this system of lines and curves. We therefore envisioned the new official residence with a layout in the form of a countercurve that dialogues with the sequence of rings organizing the map of the city.

The new residence formalizes the façade to the exterior and divides the site into two areas: one is more private and representative, and the other, to the rear, is more closely related with the everyday activities of the embassy.

The building comprises a continuous lightweight roof that is set down on the site, establishing an interrelation with the movement of the topography and forming a single figure.

In our memories, Australia is wide open spaces and wild nature. The garden will therefore use local vegetation in domestic form.

Justification of the proposal

The building proposed for the new residence of the Ambassador of Spain in Canberra appears on the site as a lightweight construction respectfully in keeping with the natural environment in which it is built.

It is a building with a maximum height of 10.5 m above the ground, underneath a single metal (zinc) roof that follows the slope of the terrain. Below this roof, the different spaces that make up the project come together. Even though the project is developed over two floors, the existing slope is optimized to generate the underground secure parking area as well as certain service areas below ground, while most of the private living areas of the building are found on the first floor.

Implementation and Accesses

On the upper levels of the terrain, protected from the views to the north (Embassy of Iran), the roof of the building extends towards Arkana Street, in close proximity to the current Chancellery.

Similarly to the south, public and emblematic access is on Arkana Street: the public access drive allows guests to be set down under a wide porch leading onto the reception area and a large garden.

The Ambassador’s private family access, and access for deliveries and parking, is on Empire Street, good use is made of the existing slope to “bury” the car park and certain service areas.

Representativeness and commitment to sustainability

The building proposed for the Residence of the Ambassador of Spain tackles, with its implementation on the site, the double challenge of the representation of its functions and the country, as well as a strong commitment to sustainability.

The building is laid out over an extensive single floor area enabling the significant dimensions of the building to be appreciated, both from the streets and from the neighbouring Chancellery: this is a building that unfurls and spaciously extends one of its facade of nearly 40 linear meters along the garden, and another of some 50 linear meters towards the Chancellery.

In return it attempts to avoid the impact of its implementation: indeed, this building pays attention to the environment, in terms of its use of durable and sustainable materials: wooden building envelopes typical of the area, the metal roof (also widely employed in Australia) that allows for natural ventilation, direct communications to the outside that favour the use of natural conditions, and the arrangement of the building that seeks to recognize the types of trees already on site, and native species for the new garden.

Programme and rationality

Since the program clearly distinguishes three functions:

The Ambassador’s residence, with a private and family development, public areas, reception and service areas, which must meet the needs of both. The proposal seeks to connect the three construction arms in the reception areas, so as to maximize available resources.

Public Area

Similarly, the most public area of the residence can be found next to the current Chancellery.

It can be reached by car through the porch to the reception area, into the hall. From there the reception rooms or the dining hall can be accessed, or on an upper level the ambassador’s office and guests´ bedrooms.

The reception rooms and the dining room are located in an extensive area with high ceilings. These fully functional and versatile spaces opening out onto the garden which is accessed by crossing the wide porch. These spaces can be subdivided into smaller sizes, which would, if necessary, be suited for holding a small convention.

The bathroom and cloakroom area are located near the entrance hall.

Private and service area

Access to the private and service area is located on Empire street, to make good use of the slope and avoid being overlooked by the plot adjacent to the facilities.

On the first level (basement) the kitchen area and related facilities are laid out (storage, laundry, cellar). This level is adjacent to the main dining room of the Residence.

From the parking area and also from the main entrance you can access the top level of the building, where more private quarters can be found: bedrooms, ambassador’s bedroom, lounge and family dining room, the latter through an office to the main kitchen on the lower floor.

The more private lounges provide direct access to the Ambassador’s office, at the boundary between the public and private area.

The staff quarters are located behind the main building: these are not designed as an annex, but as one of the main arms of the building, which supports the unfurling of the facade on the site, towards the current Chancellery.


The layout of the building embraces the garden from the north thus making full use of it. The Ambassador’s quarters open out onto the pool and the tennis court at the edge of plot, which are designed to respond to the specific uses the garden will be put to (receptions, parties, or a private playground for the Ambassador’s family).

About this author
Cite: Sebastian Jordana. "Residence of the Spanish Embassy in Australia / Mateo Arquitectura" 10 Feb 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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