The United States Embassy in London. Courtesy Richard Bryant/Arcaidimages.com.
Thornton Tomasetti provided structural engineering and protective design for the new United States Embassy in London. The Department of State built a new facility that sets a new paradigm in embassy design, termed Design Excellence, which emphasized the role of architecture in diplomacy.
Traditional Aesthetics Paired with Security
The embassy is located in Wandsworth, south of the Thames River, between Battersea Park and Vauxhall, within an emerging commercial and residential area of London’s Central Activity Zone. The facility meets all the required security standards while honoring the English tradition of urban parks and gardens as the context for many civic buildings. Alternatives to perimeter walls and fences are achieved through landscape design.
One of the design team’s primary goals was to demonstrate exceptional environmental leadership beyond the leading edge of practice when the building was completed. The designers have established goals of LEED Platinum and BREEAM Outstanding, balancing energy and environmental design issues with the overall project goals of openness, diplomacy, functionality, security and value.
The chancery building is a transparent, crystalline cube atop a colonnade, simultaneously efficient and evocative. Its surface is given form through the interface between a faceted external solar shading and collection system and the blast resistant glazing. A four-sided colonnade forms the base of the building, an accessible and sheltering form that has long evoked the architecture of democracy.
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