Billion dollar eagle lands in London

Nick Myall
Friday 15 Dec 2017

The new high security billion dollar US Embassy in London has been unveiled on the banks of the River Thames

Designed by KieranTimberlake, the new US Embassy in London replaces former offices in Grosvenor Square with a distinctive cube building, surrounded by a pond to deter terrorist attacks. The old embassy, which was designed by Eero Saarinen in 1960, in London’s fashionable Mayfair district will now be turned into a luxury hotel.

A central part in the rejuvenation of Nine Elms, in Wandsworth, the building cost £750m ($1bn) and will be a workplace for 800 staff including diplomats and home to a contingent of US Marines from January.

The new building is nearly twice as large as the Grosvenor Square facility and is the single most expensive embassy building ever built by the United States. Construction of  the building has taken four years and it will formally open on January 16. 

The 12-storey building offers a commanding view of the Thames and its design focuses on sustainability, including banks of solar panels on the roof the use of rain water runoff to form a waterfall. It will be nearly self-sufficient in energy production and even capable of operating off-grid 'for an extended period'.

One of the most impressive features of the building is its high-performance facade formed of laminated glazing and an outer envelope of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE). This transparent film is shaped to minimize solar gain and glare while allowing natural  light to fill the interior and providing striking views over the site. The tonality of the facade alters depending on the time of day and the weather.

Unusually, there is no perimeter fence around the new building. Instead, public benches give people access to the banks of the River Thames, while a pond stops unauthorised persons getting too close to the building.

US Ambassador Robert "Woody" Johnson said he hoped President Donald Trump would come to London for its official dedication.

"The great thing about being in London and the great thing about being in the US is the ability to express your point of view," said Ambassador Johnson, when asked about potential anti-Trump protests that would be staged during Mr Trump's visit.

"So that's something that we live with every day and it's an important part of who we are," he added.

Officials say it would have been prohibitively expensive to renovate the Grosvenor Square embassy, which opened in 1960, and update it with modern security features.

Nick Myall

News editor

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