US embassies have one major characteristic, which also doubles as the key challenge for the architects designing them; safety measures. Dependent of course, on the country in which the embassy is located, these international government buildings can tend to stand out from their surrounds for the wrong reasons.
Traditionally, US embassies and other international government buildings have a rather stereotypical design nature for being monolithic, cement or stone clad and almost sometimes almost invisible from the street due to high surrounding defence systems.
Moving completely away fromtradition and presenting one that is far more fitting with a modern US is the planned US Embassy in London by Philadelphia based architectural firm Kieran Timberlake. The $USD500 million project, which is set to break ground in just over a year’s time, is to be developed on London’s Nine Elms site in the midst of an urban garden, rather than cement safety wall.
The urban garden is a nod towards honouring English traditionalism, as are the limestone pavers to be used within and surrounding the proposed building. The parkland area will surround the building with a connection to the South Thames embankment as well as Vauxhall Station, truly becoming a part of the urban fold.
Breaking away from traditional enclosed construction; the park area will be open to the public, with the grounds filled with North American plant species including weeping willows.
That is not to suggest that safety standards won’t be adhered to, with an emphasis on heightened visual security as well as extensive blast resistant technologies that are in built, rather than visible.
What may be surprising is that the building will include a number of sustainability features. Vertical gardens travel up the building aiding in air circulation and come together on the central green roof. Due to the fact that the building will be almost completely clad with glass to optimise natural light gain, solar shading mechanisms will also be incorporated into the façade.
Ethylene-tetrafluoethylene (EFTFE) will be used to shade from the sun to the east, west and south of the building, in addition to allowing for the inclusion of film photovoltaics to be added into the EFTE foils. Also incorporated into this highly intelligent façade will be enclosed pressurised air pockets which will aid in eliminating solar gain.
Sitting atop the building will be a crystalline photovoltaic array which, at the size of 8,300 sqm will produce approximately 345,000 kWh of renewable energy for the running of the building.
The proposed building presents a new international image for the US, one that moves away from harsh stereotypes, to a modern country that respects the traditions of other cultures and offers to make their nation a better place. If we remember back, that was a founding American ideology, and the original catalyst for their international efforts.
The predicted completion date of the building is 2017.
Images Courtesy studio amd