US Embassy in London
Civic Trust Awards
Level of Award
Local Authority Area
Information about this scheme
The US State Department envisioned a new embassy in London that would serve as the centerpiece of one of America’s longest standing and most valued relationships. It also aspired to set a new paradigm in embassy design by representing the ideals of American democracy - transparency, openness, and equality.
The challenge was to encompass these values, creating a strong sense of identity and welcome while meeting stringent requirements for security, diplomatic work, and sustainability. The new Embassy is in Nine Elms at the centre of a redeveloping South Bank industrial zone.
With a staff of 800 and an estimated 1,000 daily visitors, the Embassy establishes a strong centrepiece for Nine Elms’ urbanization. A civic plaza and public park contribute to this revitalization by connecting the Thames embankment and Nine Elms Lane with a new pedestrian greenway that extends from Vauxhall to Battersea. The Embassy stands at the centre of this linear park surrounded by a welcoming landscape.
The site is defined by four parallel channels running east to west: The River Thames, Nine Elms Lane, the future linear park, and the railway viaduct.
The Embassy links these isolated elements through a spiral in the landscape defined by curving pathways and the crescent-shaped pond. This spiral continues upward within the building, punctuated by two-story gardens on each floor that evoke American landscapes, enhance circulation, and encourage interaction among the staff members that occupy the building. The building is transparent crystalline cube set atop a two-story colonnade. Comprised of an inner envelope of laminated glazing and an outer envelope of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), the facade affords access to daylight and striking views of London while also minimizing solar gain and glare. Its geometry and material are receptors for light, which dances in ever-shifting patterns and colours across the curvature of the hourglass-shaped frames throughout the day.
One of the project’s key challenges was determining how to balance sustainability with strict security and workplace demands. To address these complex and contradictory needs, every design element is both performative and purposeful, solving multiple problems at once with integrated building systems that each enhance the other. The landscaped pond, for instance, is both a public amenity and a component of the site’s stormwater management strategy.
US Department of State
BL Harbert International (US Lead Contractor)
Sir Robert McAlpine (UK Lead Subcontractor)
Gensler (Workplace Interior Design)
Fisher Marantz Stone
Sako & Associates (Technical Security Design)
Shen Milsom Wilke (Acoustical and Audiovisual)
CMS Collaborative (Fountain Design)
C+G Partners (Graphics and Signage)
Wiss Janney Elstner Associates (Roofing and Waterproofing)
Lerch Bates (Elevator, Façade Access)
Heintges & Associates (Glass Engineering)
Cushman & Wakefield (London Real Estate)
DP9 (London Planning)
Primary Use Class
Sui Generis - Other Use Class not listed above