A masterpiece of Finnish architecture, the Embassy of Finland in New Delhi identifies as an archetype of Finland in India. Designed by architects Reima and Raili Pietilä, the Embassy underwent restoration from 2013-2018, embarked upon by ALA Architects. They revamped and brought back the lost grandeur of the project, emphasising the genesis of the design. Scaling the trajectory from 1963 to the current century, the article embarks upon the story of the Embassy and how it turned out to be what it is today.
Reminiscing the art of winter, snowy massifs and the lagoons that nature carves into ice, the Embassy of Finland metaphors the Himalayas and the snow-clad lake Kitkajärvi in Northern Finland. Renowned among designers for its high-quality design, Finnish has a minimal aesthetic which is pervasive in the Finnish Embassy. Titled “Snow speaks on the mountains”, the Embassy is an oeuvre of Finnish architecture representing both countries.
The journey started in 1963 when Reima and Raili Pietilä won a design competition to design the Finnish Embassy. It was to be located in the diplomatic enclave in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi. Commissioned in 1980, the project was redesigned to the original concept of low rise pavilions spanned by folded concrete slabs. These marquees are both haven from rain and sunshine and an emblem for Finnish landscape, imbued by parallel ridges and fragmented coastlines. The Embassy opened in 1986, with the vast single stretch of the roof segregated into six distinct lateral buildings around a central garden area. The facades are made of natural sandstone tiles, white plastered bricks and white painted concrete with wooden parts of oiled teak, creating an association to local building traditions.
The marquees are both haven from rain and sunshine and an emblem for Finnish landscape, imbued by parallel ridges and fragmented coastlines.
In 2013 ALA Architects were entrusted with the renovation of the Finnish Embassy, to bring the building complex back to its magnificence. The aim of the project was to restore the original character of the design, maintenance of indoors and outdoors, improving the occupational well-being and living conditions of the staff members, the overall safety, along with the energy efficiency and functionality of the buildings, taking in account the harsh climatic conditions and air pollution in the area. Some climate-specific revisions were made to the plant selection and minor safety requirement advancements to the compound.
A staff apartment building was transformed and a new gatehouse, a gazebo and a small gym was constructed. The chancery, the ambassador’s residence, the technical center, sauna, residential buildings, the pool and an old gatehouse were restored. ALA Architects refurbished and retrofitted all new technical system’s installations in the buildings, with respect to the original design, all the existing roofs were repaired and enhanced to retain the master look of the roofs.
The facades are made of natural sandstone tiles, white plastered bricks and white painted concrete with wooden parts of oiled teak, creating an association to local building traditions.
With a thorough study of the original design, they drafted precise and detailed drawings and specifications along with structural, mechanical and electrical engineers. Travelling between Helsinki and New Delhi, they inspected the construction sites, instructed contractors and discussed with the locals. With a time period of 5 years, regular site inspections, and communication via email, drawings and specifications the Embassy renovation was completed in autumn 2018. The local architect partner in the 1980’s and the renovation project in 2013 was C. P. Kukreja Architects.
Shaping a Finnish landmark, Reima and Raili Pietilä have built an abstract design capturing the combination of Lake Kitkajärvi in Northern Finland and the Himalayas in Northern India, binding the two countries through an architectural uniqueness. The Finnish Embassy is cited as one of the most beautiful embassies in New Delhi. Reviving and restoring this masterpiece ALA Architects undertook the renovation project, bringing back the glory of the original design and honoring the Embassy of Finland.