Lonely Planet Writer

USA's new London embassy is an £800 million giant glass bunker

The brand new American embassy has been unveiled in London, following ten years of project planning and development. Created to be energy efficient as well as functional and secure, the eye-catching institution cost approximately £800 million (US$1 billion).

The futuristic building has been designed to be energy efficient as well as secure.
The futuristic building has been designed to be energy efficient as well as secure. Image by Richard Bryant/arcaidimages.com

Located in the Nine Elms area of Wandsworth in southwest London, the 12-story-high embassy was designed by Philadelphia-based architects KieranTimberlake, who were chosen following a competition in 2010, with ground being broken in 2013. Funded entirely from the proceeds of sales from other U.S government properties in London, the 518,050-square-foot site merges with a civic plaza and a park containing a pond, walkways, seating and landscape along its edges. The embassy will serve an estimated 1000 daily visitors and over 800 staff.

The main lobby of the American Embassy in London.
The main lobby of the American Embassy in London. Image by Richard Bryant/arcaidimages.com

One of the most unique aspects of the embassy is the look of the building itself, which has been designed to be a transparent crystalline cube set atop a colonnade. A high-performance façade has been constructed of laminated glazing, with an outer envelope of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, a transparent film shaped to minimize solar glare and is optimised for natural light throughout the interior.

Details of the building's unique facade.
Details of the building’s unique facade. Image by Richard Bryant/arcaidimages.com

Energy efficient features include a wastewater reclamation scheme, heat recovery chillers, daylight dimming and reduced power lighting as well as an enhanced indoor ventilation system. “We looked at all our options, including renovation of our current building on Grosvenor Square. In the end, we realized that the goal of a modern, secure and environmentally sustainable embassy could best be met by constructing a new facility,” said Ambassador Robert Tuttle, who led the search for the new site.

The Pacific Forest Garden at the embassy.
The Pacific Forest Garden at the embassy. Image by Richard Bryant/arcaidimages.com

Inside the building, three main streams of circulation direct visitors to their desired destinations. The consular entry receives visitors seeking passport and visas, while the main entry is designed for staff and official visitors. Finally, a separate service entry has been created for the access of deliveries and maintenance, in an effort to make day to day operations as streamlined as possible.

The embassy includes an art collection that features works and commissions by contemporary artists from the United States and the United Kingdom in an effort to reflect a cross-cultural dialogue.