Sunday, June 27, 2004

Swiss Ambassador Christian Blickenstorfer and his wife Susanne bid farewell to their official residence Saturday at a family-friendly fete for friends and neighbors that featured wall painting, alphorn playing, flag throwing, performances by modern dance and vocal ensembles and a picnic featuring a variety of Swiss breads, sausages and cookies.

The 1920s era house at 2920 Cathedral Ave. NW had many structural flaws and will be torn down in early August, with construction of a new dwelling beginning on the same site in the fall.

“The home has served well for 60 years, representing a country that has close relations with the U.S. and has been very active in the Washington political life,” Mr. Blickenstorfer said. “If you look at the trans-Atlantic relationship right now, I realize Americans appreciate the Swiss government’s investment in a costly new building in the U.S.”

Mr. Blickenstorfer and his family will occupy temporary quarters in Northwest while the new $10 million residence is being built, although it probably won’t be finished by the time his diplomatic posting ends in mid-2005.

Architects Steven Holl in New York City and Justin Russli of Lucerne, Switzerland, were selected to design the new residence, which will be about one-third larger than its predecessor.

Olaf Schmidt, an associate with the Holl firm, revealed the project would have “a Swiss identity represented in modern architectural language … with black concrete and white glass inspired by Mr. Holl’s first impression of the Swiss Alps.”

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