The Finnish Embassy in New Delhi is among the most ambitious efforts to create an architectural symbol for Finland. In Reima Pietilä’s opinion, the Chanakyapuri diplomatic district where the embassy is located was visually too incoherent to provide references for design. Therefore, he designed the building as a ‘landscape sculpture’.
The design process was exceptionally long and complicated. The Pietilä couple won an open competition already in 1963, but the commission was given to architect Lauri Silvennoinen (1921–1969), whose proposal was awarded second prize. After Silvennoinen’s premature death, the project stalled for a decade, and in 1980 the commission was finally given to the Pietiläs.
Although the programme had to be completely renewed, the Pietilä couple adhered to the basic concept of their competition entry: low-rise pavilions covered by folded concrete slabs. These canopies are both practical shelters from rain and sunshine and a metaphor for Finnish landscape, characterised by parallel ridges and fragmented coastlines. On the other hand, many materials and details, such as the sandstone cladding, bay windows and teakwood grilles, create an association to local building traditions.
A renovation designed by ALA Architects was completed in autumn 2018.
Text: Kristo Vesikansa