New state-of-the-art U.S. Embassy in London

New state-of-the-art U.S. Embassy in London

New state-of-the-art U.S. Embassy in London

The new American Embassy in South London is finally complete. The 12-storey, 518,000 sq. foot building in Nine Elms, just off the banks of River Thames, has been designed by Philadelphia-based architect firm Kieran Timberlake, who were the winners of a competition launched by the US Department of State in 2008.

The new state-of-the-art structure is said to be the most expensive embassy building in the world, although diplomats say it has been funded entirely from the sale of properties in London.

It has taken four years to complete and replaces the embassy on Grosvenor Square in Mayfair, which is being turned into a hotel. The location next to the river, and a half-moon- shaped 'moat' around one side, are designed to give the building a high security which was not possible on the current site in the midst of a residential neighbourhood.

The building stands out as a crystalline cube from its brick-clad neighbours. On three sides of the 213-foot [65-metre] structure are ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) sails, which act as a shading device. James Timberlake, a partner in the firm, stressed the need to "filter all that enters", listing "people, air, and even materials." Even birds are kept out through star-spangled fritting found on the northern-facing facade, the only side free from the ETFE sails.

The building will have a staff of 800 people and attract about 1,000 visitors a day. They will be greeted by curving walkways into the interior, with gardens on every floor, each representing a different landscape of the US artworks in the building, which includes a monumental cast of a typical US suburban house in the lobby, created by English artist Rachel Whiteread.

Geetha Balachandran

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