On the 23rd of February, the US Sate Department unveiled the winning design for the new US embassy in London. The proposed building comes from Philadelphia architectural firm KieranTimberlake, and it has received mixed reviews.
According to Niccolai Ouroussoff of the International Herald Tribune, ‘it has all the glamour of a corporate office block.’ The monumental glass cube of the main building is surrounded by two small meadows and a pond, which in Ouroussoff’s opinion ‘have as much to do with defensive fortification as with pastoral serenity... It’s hard to think of a project, in fact, that more perfectly reflects the country’s current struggle to maintain a welcoming, democratic image while under the constant threat of attack.’
Edwin Heathcote of the Financial Times sees things a bit differently, siting the energy efficiency and landscaping of the proposed building as positive aspects of the design. According to Heathcote, the building will generally improve the ‘post-industrial’ area of London where the embassy will reside, which is one of the ‘last big undeveloped city-centre sites.’
It is interesting, however, to note that even though Heathcote’s review is evidently much more positive that Ourousoff’s, his opinion of the design ultimately relates back to the same issue highlighted in Ouroussoff’s article: national security. In Heathcote’s own words, the KieranTimberlake proposal is ‘a sensible and sensitive landscape strategy which obviates the need for such strident expression of security while attempting to provide superior safety for those working both within and around the building.’