- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

Georgetown's skyline is about to change, thanks to the Swedes, who plan to build a blocky glass-and-wood embassy along the Potomac River.
"It's a transparent and open building, which we think reflects the Swedish desire for dialogue with the rest of the world," Swedish Ambassador Jan Eliasson said at the unveiling of the embassy plans Wednesday at the Kennedy Center. "We hope it will add to the beauty of Washington."
The building, which also will contain residential units and public spaces, is expected to be completed in mid-2006. It will border 30th Street NW. The current embassy is on M Street NW.
Gert Wingardh, a self-described Frank Lloyd Wright devotee, and Tomas Hansen are the Swedish architects behind the angular building, which is to be layered in balconies and terraces and made of Swedish construction staples: wood and glass.
"It's a reminder of the Swedish tradition of glassmaking," Mr. Hansen said.
The design also features extensive lighting of the exterior walls which will be made of laminated glass and wood creating a "Nordic, rather warm light," Mr. Wingardh said.
"It'll be like a lighthouse to Georgetown," he added.
Before construction can start, there are hoops to jump through such as getting the approval of the Fine Arts Commission and several neighborhood groups said developer Alan Novak, who bought the property last year.
Mr. Novak, who has a 30-year friendship with Mr. Eliasson, said he's delighted the new embassy, the House of Sweden, will occupy the property.
"I always wanted to have something for Sweden on the waterfront," said Mr. Novak, who's married to a Swede.
The four-story, 70,000-square-foot building will include public spaces open to anyone. A conference room and an exhibit hall are among planned features for the basement and first floor.
"It'll be open to people in the area; everyone's welcome," said Jonathan Novak, business partner and son of Alan Novak. "I live in Georgetown, and I'm very excited about a new public space."
The second floor will be occupied by the embassy, and the third and fourth floors will be devoted to residential units.
The roof will have a terrace and be open for events and parties, the architects said.
"Open" and "openness" were words the ambassador and the architects used freely and frequently to describe the building and the core Swedish values it represents.
"Openness is an important word for democracy anywhere," Mr. Eliasson said, "but Swedes in particular believe that you should be able to reach the people in power."
In this age of heightened security, however, openness may be a luxury that prudence cannot afford.
"I hope the trend we see now will change," Mr. Eliasson said, acknowledging that the entrance to the actual embassy portion of the building probably would have to be outfitted with a checkpoint of some sort. "Terrorism is really a threat to all our values."

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