US ambassador to London Louis Susman has unveiled the winning design in an architectural competition to create a new American Embassy for the British capital. Philadelphia-based architect Kieran Timberlake beat Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, Richard Meier & Partners and Morphisis to win the project, which will be built at Nine Elms on the south bank of the Thames.
The skin of the 12-storey box-like structure will be clad in blast-proof glass and plastic. It replaces Eero Saarinen’s 1957 embassy building in Mayfair’s Grosvenor Square, which has listed status.
The British newspaper ‘The Guardian’ reports that the jury’s decision-making was far from straightforward: ‘The only two British members of the seven-strong design jury “fought to the death” against their American counterparts in a failed bid to block a winning design which they argued was not world class and was unfit to represent the US in Britain. Lord Rogers, the architect of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, and Lord Palumbo, the property developer and art collector, felt so strongly about the inadequacies of the winning design, they submitted a “minority report” setting out their case to the US state department in Washington, which commissioned the building. (…) Rogers and Palumbo are said to have thought the design was boring and “not good enough to represent one of the great nations in London”, said sources familiar with the jury process.’