Among the more than 175 diplomatic missions in Washington, DC, few stand out more than the South African Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue’s Embassy Row. Marked by its iconic Nelson Mandela statue, the embassy’s twin Dutch Colonial buildings are now joined in the middle by a new glass atrium shaded with a striking Cambridge Architectural wire mesh façade.
The atrium is the centerpiece of architect Davis Brody Bond’s recent renovation of the embassy. Cambridge’s stainless steel screen, woven in the company’s triangular Shade pattern, covers the atrium’s exterior south-facing façade and wraps it in a continuous ribbon that carries under the front entrance as a ceiling as well.
The architect chose Cambridge mesh for its modern, woven appearance, solar shading characteristics and transparency.
“While giving respect to history, we used Cambridge mesh to help marry the two 1935 structures with a new progressive space and design,” said Robert Anderson, director for Davis Brody Bond’s Washington, D.C. office.
The atrium replaces the embassy’s former connecting bridge and open courtyard and expands its interior to include a pubic welcoming area, conference rooms and special events space.
The initial design concept called for bronze mesh panels but eventually evolved to the more modern stainless steel look.
“Visible from Massachusetts Ave., our mesh is the perfect architectural complement to blend the beautiful limestone buildings and provide a backdrop that accents the Mandela statue,” said Ann Smith, Manager of Architectural Business Development for Cambridge Architectural. “It’s also an effective screen for shading the south-facing façade and ceiling while allowing sufficient light to brighten the atrium.”
The mesh is wrapped around custom manufactured attachments (based on Cambridge’s Scroll attachment system) at the green roof level and front entrance ceiling. It’s mounted off the glass to allow for a custom-designed window washing system.
Wire mesh continues on the inside of the atrium to accent the ceiling in the new open public area. Large framed mesh panels are also installed as hinged ceiling panels for easy HVAC access.
The project was completed in January 2014. Turner Construction was the contractor.