New US Embassy, United Kingdom


The US Embassy in London approved design plans for a new building in the Nine Elms area of Wandsworth on 23 February 2010. KieranTimberlake is the designer of the new embassy and its surrounding green spaces. The US Department of State's Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations chose the architects through an international competition.

Comprising UK and US leaders in the fields of architecture, diplomacy and academia, the jury selected four firms for the final phase of the competition out of nine shortlisted designs. KieranTimberlake was chosen for its modern, secure and environmentally friendly architectural design. The three other firms were Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, Richard Meier & Partners, and Morphosis Architects.

The 500,000ft² embassy building is estimated to cost approximately $1bn. Construction of the embassy building began in November 2013 and is scheduled to be completed by 2017.

US Embassy master plan

The US Embassy has been located in Grosvenor Square, Westminster, since 1960. In October 2008, the embassy entered into a conditional agreement with Ballymore real estate developers to purchase a site for the new embassy in the Nine Elms area. The new embassy is being built on a five-acre site, south of the River Thames.

"The US Embassy in London approved design plans for a new building in the Nine Elms area of Wandsworth on 23 February 2010."

The selection of architects to design the new embassy began in November 2008. The objective for designers was to create a secure, welcoming, environmentally friendly and sustainable design for the building and site complex in the cityscape of London, which would appropriately represent the US in the UK.

The Grosvenor Square embassy was designed by Eero Saarinen and sold to Qatari Diar in November 2009.

Design of the US Embassy in the UK

The embassy building has been designed taking into consideration the urbanisation and redevelopment of the Nine Elms area.
The US Embassy building is a transparent crystalline cube atop a four-sided colonnade. A semi-circular pond is being built on one side of the landscape and the surroundings will be developed into a park.

The landscaping and the walkways of the embassy will spiral inwards from the boundary of the site. The walkways will continue through the pond and provide the entrance to the main lobby. A gallery area will spiral down on the opposite side of the lobby to the north to form the entrance to a multipurpose hall.

The embassy will feature internal gardens that will spiral vertically to the top of the structure. The gardens will be designed to provide an additional vertical walkway and feature meeting spaces.

US Embassy façade

The façade of the embassy building will be a glazed structure with an outer scrim of ethylene tetrafluroethylene (ETFE) cushions. The façade will be oriented to provide shade, minimise heat absorption and protect the building from external environment and act as a thermal buffer.

The ETFE foils will be integrated with thin photovoltaic films on the south, west and east elevations to generate energy. The external cover will also be blast resistant and the ETFE scrim will be designed to avoid bird attacks.

Landscaping

The embassy building will not have fences or walls but the security measures will be integrated in the landscaping. Surroundings of the building will have an embassy park with garden space and a protective barrier.

The embassy will have two east-west vehicular and pedestrian paths and a pedestrian greenway to the south of the embassy connecting the embassy with Vauxhall station.

"The new US Embassy is being built on a five-acre site, south of the River Thames."

The perimeter walls and fences for the embassy will be integrated into the design of the landscape.

London plane trees will provide shading all through the pedestrian walkways, which will be paved in limestone. A pond to the north will have walks and seating and be planted with American-species trees such as the bald cypress and weeping willow. The landscape will also have mechanical areas, basement services, parking garage ramps and a meeting space.

Environmental impact

The building will feature optimised daylighting and occupant control of systems, closed-loop water and integrated evaporative cooling cycle systems, embodied energy and carbon neutral facilities to lower the lifecycle costs and mitigate the environmental impact.

A large photovoltaic system will be installed on the roof and the building exteriors for generating solar energy. The 8,300m² of photovoltaic systems on the roof will hide the mechanical equipment and produce up to 345,000kWh of energy.

Contractors involved

Arup has been selected as the lead contractor for sustainability, mechanical / electrical / plumbing / fire protection (MEP/FP) and civil engineering works. OLIN is the landscape architect and Gensler the workplace design consultant. Weidlinger Associates is responsible for structural and blast engineering. Sako & Associates is the consultant for technical security and Davis Langdon is the cost consultant.