Two models for embassies (retreat I & II)
by Anne Holtrop


Two models for embassies (retreat I & II)<br/>by Anne Holtrop

Dutch architect Anne Holtrop has proposed two conceptual embassy buildings for the Government Building Agency in the Netherlands.

Two models for embassies (retreat I & II) by Anne Holtrop

The designs (retreat I & II) would both contain a series of rooms distanced from their immediate surroundings for safety.

Two models for embassies (retreat I & II)<br/>by Anne Holtrop

Retreat I (above) would have alcoves in a mountainous form and Retreat II (below) would have spaces concealed in undulating terrain.

Two models for embassies (retreat I & II) by Anne Holtrop

Here's some more from the designer:

Recently I finished an idea project for the Government Buildings Agency (part of ministry VROM).

Two models for embassies (retreat I & II) by Anne Holtrop

It is called Two models for embassies (retreat I & II).

Two models for embassies (retreat I & II) by Anne Holtrop

The work originated out of the need for safety issues concerning embassies.

Two models for embassies (retreat I & II) by Anne Holtrop

What I tried to do is to develop two ideas in models to give a broader insight in this question. One way to defend one self is to retreat, to make a distance.

Two models for embassies (retreat I & II) by Anne Holtrop

That why the work is named Two models for embassies (Retreat I & Retreat II). But a retreat has also a very positive meaning, like a retraite.

Two models for embassies (retreat I & II) by Anne Holtrop

Click above for larger image

In that way a retreat is about the quality of space. This double interpretation is part of the work.

See also:


Trail House
by Anne Holtrop
Floating gardens
by Anne Holtrop
architecture stories

Posted on Friday August 6th 2010 at 1:51 pm by Joe Mills. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Aalto

    Infantile. When will we architects start to openly criticize these absolutely ridiculous proposals? Just because something can be built, does not mean it should. It is time that we realize the damage that we are causing our to our profession by treating as legitimate these types of projects. Form for the sake of form is not architecture, it is sculpture.

  • Felix

    "One way to defend one self is to retreat, to make a distance."

    It also happens to be a very expensive and inefficient use of space.

    And what materials would this mountain be built of?

    If this is a high risk building, why design in a way that makes circulation and escape more difficult? Retreat 1 is going to need at least five sets of elevators and staircases.

    Retreat 2 is just orange resin sitting in a rock? How is that a building design? Doesn't that make it really easy for people to climb all over your building, which presumably is a security risk?

    This is just another one of these pointless projects that answers the brief in a highly impractical way just for the sake of aesthetics.

  • I think this is rather theoretical work (kind of early Libeskind or Zaha) with impressive models and really creative search. The idea of retreat is visible and readable (to me at least). Not so sure though if this will be ever implemented as a real full scale project. But as a pure design exercise it is very interesting and emotionally charged…

  • Felix

    Looking at Anne Holtrop's previous design on here, it seems she either has a love of living in Hobbit Holes or cannot design proper exterior elevations for her buildings. If you think landscapes are more beautiful than buildings maybe you should be a landscape architect, Anne.

  • rodger

    i like her work although i am very sympathetic to the above comments.
    anne holtrop is an artist first, architect second, and her work proves that.
    all of her work is provocative and her ideas are clearly articulated if somewhat one dimensional at times. we need people like her.

  • Whoa, take a chill pill @Aalto and @ Felix. These outcomes were produced as part of an "ideas project" not a "building sciences project" or a "economic and building efficiencies project."

    • Felix

      architecture is ideas, science and economics together. ideas that can never be realised are just art. if practicalities are irrelevant why design this building at all? why not just imagine we live in paradise where embassies and threats to embassies don't exist?

      • Felix, some people view architecture as a serious technical business, some consider it as an art full of free spirit and academic research… And then you have the whole world of variations in between. Both ends are radical and stimulate over-heated debates. It is normal. But for some reason I find an art-approach much more… intellectually challenging. Although less realistic and less profitable. But every individual has a right to his personal view. Even if it's not quite related to economics… JMHO

        • Felix

          I agree, however Holtrop's description of the project is that it came from "safety issues concerning embassies", so it's perfectly fair to judge it on those terms. I find it hard to think of any safety issue concerning embassies addressed by these designs. If he had said it was about feelings of security or something that'd be different.

          Also, the two designs look like Holtrop is more concerned with what the project looks like from above at 1:50 than from street level at 1:1, and I can't really see how that's defensible.

      • People undertake building science projects all the time…developing facades, curtain walls, or HVAC systems divorced from the architecture, economics, and sometimes practical considerations of production. What if we were to say Holtrop is a "spatial engineer" and she is developing new ways to conceive of organization and spatial understanding? I think then its okay to push some "practicalities" aside.

  • simoes


  • edward

    Interesting shapes. That's about it.

  • wpgmb

    pretty models.

  • reinierdejong

    Anne is a 'he'. And calling something 'infantile' is not criticism. I do admit though that the information about this project given here is insufficient to truly criticize it.

  • Tashio

    These "alcoves" just don't seem to be all that great of an idea. Yeah lets highlight the locations of areas of importance and make it visable to the exterior… Where is the safety in that? The main "concept" is retreat, yet this is useless if you retreat to a location that isn't safe and secure. Making slopes and topography won't keep terrorist out. I get that this person was trying to be "creative" but try and use common sense at the same time.

  • RLKC

    I don't see any purpose in the design at all.

  • jose

    anyone can teach pragmatism, anyone can achieve pragmatism. And to separate architecture from sculpture entirely is wrong and misleading. Sculpture and art have historically had profound impacts on architecture and vice versa. Most architects were artisans of some type – this was true for hundreds of years. And great works of architecture always engage in issues of form, weather you like it or not. The anger and righteousness expressed against form is misplaced and sad…and indicative of the lack of creativity and imagination that plagues the discipline today. Its not like we went to school for economics, although, perhaps many should have.

    • alechs

      Sculpture and art may be in the history of architecture but you have realize that's a double-edged sword. In From Bauhaus to Our House, Tom Wolfe states that art form in modern architecture (such as cubism, futurism, etc) was an aesthetic coding method initially used to distance the public from the avant garde elites rather than meaningful architectural manifestations expressing modern existence (simultaneous time frames, ephemerality, speed).

      i just think that generating form just isn't as relevant in architectural discourse anymore. It just feels stuffy, dated and overbearing. I mean we are finally escaping the hegemony that architectural linguistics started in the 1970s: to design a theoretically hermetic project in this day and age seems to be setting the bar pretty low.

  • DrewDrew

    Whats with the arch rage, can you suspend your beliefs for just a minute. This is a kick ass model, its clear someone has let the hands do their work. Sometimes something striking comes along. This is striking, especially the wooden model, the underground presents a space reminds me of a scene in one of Tarkovsky's films, not sure how well that would work with design, but it looks more interesting than your standard underground bunker. And for all you who are so quick to kill this idea's projects, not a one of you, if given the opportunity, would refuse to work on such a monster. I say monster in the most flattering way. The only views in appear to be through large conference rooms and the congregating spaces = large space+ groups of people + light come together. I'm sure wants all the players are on board and its structure and form are verified with BIM etc., it will change, but thats okay. It's quite poetic. I find it irresistibly mesmerizing.

  • gaque

    these are beautiful. congratulations mr. holtrop, i hope to see your works in more detail and much more from you very soon!

  • poster

    ok so let's just say it is inspired in Sol Lewitt sculptures, and obviously based on a project by Mansilla and Tunon, a spanish firm please try to revisist other examples of sculpture, this has been done before

    • edward

      Thanks for pointing out the :Cantabria Museum by Mansilla+Tuñón as the inspiration for Retreat #1 The form makes sense for a museum.. Can't say about this usage.

  • angry catalan

    They're just taking the piss, and it was about time because I'm getting fed up with all this bollocks about security this security that. I don't believe this is getting irate responses and passionate defenders, a bit perplexed to be honest.

  • Mr PC

    am loving how some critics go for the jugular about effecient space use or whether its legitimate and 'grown up'…good to see that creativity, enthusiasm precociousness are alive and well, NOT! maybe if we removed ourselves for just a second out of the back end of a door schedule or a bill of quants, we might entertain that fly away thought we call architecture, No? I love the two embassies, interesting ideas being postulated which given time and interest, would be massaged into a workable building. the forms are beautiful in theri own right and that is positve straight away, disagree they look like mansilla, or souto de moura for that fact, what have those two now copy righted anything looking remotely like a church steeple?

  • The Fanatic

    lol @ anne is a "he"…

  • Erik


  • Felix

    it reminds me somehow a little of Gottfried Boehm's City Hall in Bensberg Germany:

  • Une très belle plastique et étude. je vous félicite.