New London Embassy by KieranTimberlake


Philadelphia architect KieranTimberlake has won the competition to design the new US embassy in the UK.

Called New London Embassy, it will be built at Nine Elms beside the River Thames.

The building replaces Eero Saarinen's embassy is Grosvenor Square, which was completed in 1957 and which was recently listed as a Grade II historical building.

Timberlake beat architets Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, Morphisis and Richard Meier & Partners to win the project.

Here's some text from KieranTimberlake:

New U.S. Embassy in London

23 February 2010

The United States Department of State announced today that KieranTimberlake has won the design competition for the New London Embassy. In statements given at a press briefing today in London, U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Louis B. Susman, and Acting Director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, Adam Namm, remarked, "KieranTimberlake's design meets the goal of creating a modern, welcoming, timeless, safe and energy efficient embassy for the 21st century. Their concept most fully satisfied the requirements outlined in the design competition's mission statement. The concept holds the greatest potential for developing a truly iconic embassy and is on the leading edge of sustainable design."


• The concept for the New London Embassy is the result of KieranTimberlake's efforts to resolve, in architectural terms, what an embassy aspires to be and what present realities dictate it must do.

• The expressive challenge is to give form to the core beliefs of our democracy - transparency, openness, and equality - and do so in a way that is both secure and welcoming. At the same time, the building must confront the environmental challenges all nations face with leading edge sustainable design.

• The team included Olin as Landscape Architect; Arup for Sustainability, MEP/FP and Civil Engineering; Weidlinger Associates for Structural and Blast Engineering; Gensler for workplace design; Davis Langdon for Cost Consulting; and Sako & Associates for Technical Security.

Urban Park

• The design places the embassy building at the center of the Nine Elms site and develops the surrounding area into an urban park. The new embassy meets all the required security standards while honoring the English tradition of urban parks and gardens as the context for many civic buildings. The new embassy, with its gardens, will establish a strong framework for the urbanization of the Nine Elms redevelopment zone.

• There are two major east-west pedestrian and vehicular paths, one existing and one to be improved, and the other proposed as part of the enabling infrastructure for the Nine Elms development. The existing infrastructure is along the south Thames embankment and is composed of a river walk paralleled by Nine Elms Lane. The proposed new infrastructure to the south of the embassy site is a pedestrian greenway that will connect the embassy site to Vauxhall Station, the nearest tube stop to the east, and on to the proposed new Battersea developments to the west. Poised strategically midway between these parallel paths, the embassy becomes part of an urban park that connects the Thames embankment to the new pedestrian way to the south.

• The paving about and within the embassy site utilizes the familiar limestone used in many London walks and parks. London Plane trees provide shade and form at the perimeter and along Nine Elms Lane as well as the proposed new walk to the south that connects the site to Vauxhall Station.

• Seen from the north along the Thames embankment and Nine Elms Lane, the new Embassy Park contains a pond with walks, places to sit and landscape along its edges, all open to the citizens of London.

• Trees near the pond are to be North American species, such as the Weeping Willow and the Bald Cypress. Others, while native to North America, were long ago brought to England and are now common to the English landscape.

• Viewed from the north at the proposed plaza, the embassy grounds will provide the prospect of an open park, a landscape of grasses rising gracefully to the new embassy colonnade, with the required secure boundaries incised into the hillside and out of view. Instead of a perimeter-walled precinct, the site to the north and south is a welcoming urban amenity, a park for the city that fuses the new embassy to the city of London. Alternatives to perimeter walls and fences are achieved through landscape design.

• The spiraling form of the landscape is expressed through grading, walks and plantings in a way that simultaneously opens out to the city beyond and spirals inward as it envelops and then moves up into and through the embassy building. As a choice of form, the spiraling garden is meaningful as it represents connections of site to landscape to building.

• The connections to the surrounding urban context, both existing and proposed, begin in an open geometry well beyond the site at the Thames embankments and the proposed Vauxhall-to-Battersea pedestrian way.

• The walks and landscape forms begin their inward spiral at the outer boundaries of the site. They sweep past the pond to the entry court that opens to the Main Lobby for staff and their guests. At the opposite side of the Main Lobby, the Gallery spirals down to the north culminating in the large Multi-Purpose Hall that merges with the grade of the spiraling Consular Walk above.

• At the main entry, the site spiral continues beyond to the great arc of the Consular Garden, carrying the visitor up the Consular Walk and into the Consular Lobby and promenade overlooking the pond and the Thames embankment to the north.

• The visitor continues this spiral within the embassy, revolving about the core and up to the consular floor above, pausing along the way to overlook the Main Lobby, a significant moment where the necessarily separate worlds of the embassy - consular visitors and staff - visually intersect.

The Chancery

• Internal gardens continue vertically within the new embassy as the spiral continues upward about the core toward an ever more focused, secure and enclosed center atop the structure. These gardens provide places to meet and additional vertical circulation. The plantings for each garden are chosen for their capacity to thrive in specific orientations, for their representation of the diversity of the American landscape and for the appropriateness of each type to its use.

• The chancery is a transparent, crystalline cubic form atop a colonnade. The crystalline form is simultaneously efficient and evocative.

• It represents the optimum ratio of maximum volume within minimum perimeter with resulting cost and energy management benefits. Its precise dimensions have been selected to afford the optimum distance for visitors and occupants to daylight and view.

• As a pure geometry, the cubic form is an ancient signifier of solidity, strength and permanence, all qualities of our democracy.

• Its surface is given form through the interface between a faceted external solar shading and collection system and the blast resistant glazing.

• This crystal-like ethylene-tetrafluroethylene (ETFE) scrim has been optimized to shade interiors from east, west and south sun while admitting daylight and framing large open view portals to the outside. Its pattern visually fragments the façade while it intercepts unwanted solar gain and transforms it into energy by means of thin film photovoltaics positioned in the ETFE foils. The design of this scrim works vertically, horizontally and diagonally to eliminate directionality from the building's massing. The scrim also renders the largely transparent façades visible to migratory birds to discourage bird-strikes.

• At each façade, an ETFE enclosed pressurized air pocket further insulates the glazing from thermal transfer.

• The top of the building is sheathed with a crystalline photovoltaic array on the entire roof, screening mechanical equipment from view. The total array of crystalline and thin-film photovoltaic on the building measures 8,300 square meters with a significant output of over 345,000 kWh of energy.

• A four-sided colonnade forms the base of the building. Through both custom and the openness and accessibility of its sheltering form, colonnades have long evoked the architecture of democracy.

The Diplomacy of Art

• Luminous ‘light art' wraps the core wall in a prominent location behind the colonnade.

• At the Main and Consular Lobbies the art inside is visible through glazing from the main entry court and the pond. To the south and southwest are external art walls. As it unfolds about the central core, the art can be experienced both within the major public spaces and from the outside as part of the continuum of spiraling walks and landscape form.

• In the Main Lobby, the art wall stops at the center to inflect toward a stone wall in which the names of prior ambassadors to the Court of St. James are inscribed.


• Rather than employing a plinth to accommodate the large programs located at the lowest levels of the building, the colonnade sits atop a gently rising earthen mound. Within this landscape form are parking garage ramps and basement service and mechanical areas to the south, and the lower level of the Gallery and Multi-Purpose Meeting Space to the north and west.

• Instead of fragmenting the embassy into a plinth and tower, this strategy transforms the large footprints of the lower levels along with the entrance pavilions into earthen landscape form to enhance the prominence of the embassy colonnade and transparent building.

• The visual presence of the whole is that of a beacon that is a respectful icon representing the strength of the U.S.-U.K. relationship.

• In the form and expression of the New London Embassy, KieranTimberlake seeks a holistic fusion of urbanism with site, of building and landscape.

• KieranTimberlake seeks a new embassy that is both evocative and that performs, one that represents our democracy and our relationship with the United Kingdom and at the same time conserves and produces energy.

• All elements are purposeful in multiple ways: from image and expression to the environment and urbanism, to the productivity and comfort of the users. The architects at KieranTimberlake do not believe these objectives can be segregated. They must work together, holistically providing new synergies that make the form of the new embassy resonate deeply.

Renderings by Studio amd

Posted on Wednesday February 24th 2010 at 9:53 am by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Gustav

    This looks ok I guess (at least exteriors), but the real news is that they managed to save Saarinens masterpiece!

  • Matthew W

    Did you mention that it will cost $1 billion to build?

  • Theo

    Another wobbly glass cube.

    Such a missed opportunity.

  • cmontilla

    At least is better than the one in Berlin!

  • just….fugly.

  • Ben

    i really like the carpet

  • Josh

    I don’t see the real need for this now, especially at that cost. Most might agree that government should work by the same concept that responsible individuals try to hold themselves to, by not spending money you don’t have.

  • KaptnK

    But are they going to pay the blasted congestion charge and VAT they owe?!?!

    Boring cube. They ought to be able to something at least vaguely interesting with that level of cash.

  • Soleri

    Really dissapointing – looks like a run-off the mill commercial development. Facade treatment and sky garden looks like an afterthought… Embassy buildings provide a brilliant architectural opportunity, and can really add something to a city, and say something about the country they represent. What this says about the U.S is anyones guess! (yes we can!)

  • MR

    Vote 1 Thom Mayne…. damn!

  • recon::decon

    given all of the security constraints that have to be addressed in the design of an embassy, I think they did a pretty good job. The use of landscaping to both buffer and hide the required concrete plinth is a pretty nice move.

    All in all, I’m actually quite glad that they didn’t select one of the more bombastic “stararchitect” submissions. The last thing we need is a building that epitomizes the US tourist circa 1950 stereotype. If it says something about the US I hope it says that the US is finally moving in a direction of equality and respect (instead of just barging in and taking over).

  • TP

    It looks like they copied OMA’s Wyly Theatre and tried to disguise it as something else.

  • Filip

    With the money they are about to spend they should have gone with the Thom Mayne design (which seemed far better, and would have actually benefitted the urban landscape in London).

    It’s not just for christmas it’s for life, we have to put up with this pile of shit for years to come. Could you put up the submission by Thome Mayne?… so we have something great to look at.

  • rose

    That looks like Richard Meyer architecture – he also never understood le corbusier. it’s a shame, to build a house like this in london.

  • Im really disappointed such a embassy building in the London for the U.K..Its look like a blank box with the pilotis from ancient history from greek time..I do not know where is the English cultural and representative elements in this building.. Everybody can say , we are transparent and etc… Where is the facade design ? where is the design principles in the facade , it is just a dress up to the structure, nothing else…

  • aufd

    There is this special quality that a certain type of architect always achieve. A bland but still annoying quality. Im sure it takes skill…

  • zne

    It might not be as visually-arresting as a Mayne project, but honestly Kieran Timberlake is the only firm on that short list I don’t have qualms about representing the US abroad. They’re doing some really pioneer research-based work. Why build some wild monument to a single man’s ego when the program demands something sophisticated and straightforward? I mean… it’s an American embassy for christ’s sake…

  • recon::decon

    I think few people on this forum understand that architecture is a lot more than form making (which is evident with the shear amount of unsubstantiated praise every Zaha project gets). Honestly if this recession brings one good thing it will seeing the end of form-obsessed design and the celebrity designers they came with and a return to for less superficial aspects of architecture.

    Also what you have to understand is that US embassies have to deal with more security restrictions and constraints than almost every other country so many of the “design” decisions are already predetermined. Honestly if you look at the submissions from Morphosis and I.M.Pei they really are not that dissimilar from this submission… basically a glass object sitting atop a plinth in a landscape. Pei just decided to make his glass object an ellipse and Mayne put the ellipse in a blender (along with bombing the landscape).

  • el radius

    i don’t mind this project.. it is an efficient box, with a lacey dress.. overall it will probably sit within the city quite well.. it doesn’t come across as a brash, loud and annoying.. qualities that many other architects and us trvaelers suffer overall kind of respectful which possibly a project such as this demands…

  • Lee Corbusier

    Wow that’s ham fisted.

    Read that ‘concept’ again – what empty bullshit.
    No love, no passion, no ideas, no opinions, no analysis, no understanding.

    ‘Our building will be closed, but will look open because it’s glass.’
    ‘Our building will be glass, but we can say it’s eco friendly in the press notes.’

    Embassies can be a showcase for the best of one culture in the context of another – like the beautiful finnish embassy in Washington D.C.

  • flytoget

    This is a very decent work. A building that is cohesive, straightforward, open, sophisticated, respectful and sustainable. In fact, these are the very values upon which the US culture is based and this building translates those quite successfully.

  • Lee Corbusier

    Based on the words and pictures presented above, the proposal is adequate. Quite successful. Decent. Just nowhere near ‘good’.

    There’s certainly no clear argument for it – just 1500 words of box ticking waffle.

    The lack of vision, ambition or honesty is utterly depressing.

  • JFS

    Disappointingly boring.