Architecture Firm KieranTimberlake Tops All-AAR Field in Design for New US London Embassy

KieranTimberlake US London embassy design, view from east. Rendering by Studio amd

The Philadelphia architectural firm KieranTimberlake—founded in 1984 by Stephen Kieran (FAAR’81), FAIA, and James Timberlake (FAAR’83), FAIA—has won a high-profile competition to design the new American embassy in London. Their proposal is for a secure and environmentally efficient glass cube, with its own water and energy sources, set atop a colonnade in a landscape on the south Thames embankment with a pond and pathways open to the public.

James Timberlake termed it “an urban building in an urban park.” The new embassy is scheduled to break ground in 2013 and be completed by 2017. You can view KieranTimberlake’s illustrated description of their winning design here. For this weblog’s January 2009 profile of KieranTimberlake, see here.

“KieranTimberlake’s design met the goal of creating a modern, welcoming, timeless, safe and energy efficient embassy for the 21st century”, said the US State Department in its announcement of 23 February. “Their concept most fully satisfied the requirements outlined in the design competition’s mission statement. The concept holds the greatest potential for developing a truly iconic embassy and is on the leading edge of sustainable design.”

Current AAR Fellow Kiel Moe, Gorham P. Stevens Rome Prize recipient in Architecture, observed “the results of this competition reflect a promising shift in architectural thought: from strategies focused merely on appearance to strategies that focus on the performance of architecture in the face of a range of new obligations in this century.” Hundreds of news sources have covered the competition, with Philip Kennicott in the 24 February Washington Post providing an excellent summary of the competition and the winning design.

Renderings by Studio amd of the winning KieranTimberlake embassy design. From top: views from Nine Elms Lane, from Consular Plaza, from Embassy Park, of main lobby, to exterior from cafeteria

A bit of background. Last January, a jury for the London embassy competition interviewed nine top US architectural firms which had been shortlisted from 37 firms which had submitted their credentials initially for the project. After an extensive interview of these firms and their consulting teams (for areas such as Landscape, Structural and Blast Engineering, Technical Security, Sustainability, and Cost Control), the jury selected four teams to proceed into the approximately four month long design competition.

As it happens, all four of these architectural teams have strong ties to the American Academy in Rome.

KieranTimberlake: Stephen J. Kieran (FAAR’81), James Timberlake (FAAR’83), with a team featuring as Landscape Architect Laurie Olin (FAAR’74, RAAR’90, ’08, and Trustee)

Morphosis Architects: Thom Mayne (Trustee)

Richard Meier & Partners Architects: Richard Meier (RAAR’74,Trustee), Michael Palladino (FAAR’01)

Pei Cobb Freed & Partners: Henry N. Cobb (RAAR’92, Trustee Emeritus)

One also notes that Landscape Architect Peter G. Rolland (FAAR’78) was a member of the seven person American and British jury for the embassy competition.

“In an encouraging departure from recent federal practice”, noted Christopher Hawthorne in an online post for the Los Angeles Times, “The State Department released renderings of designs by each of the other three finalists, giving the public a chance to see how four accomplished firms approached the task of suggesting a sense of openness while also meeting the strict security requirements that go along with any American embassy commission.” And here they are—with our congratulations to all four of the finalists in this truly major competition.

Morphosis Architects (Thom Mayne)

Richard Meier & Partners Architects

Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

Special thanks to AAR Arts and Humanities Intern Diana Mellon for contributing to this post.

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