Next week the new #US Embassy in #London will open its doors in the Nine Elms area of Wandsworth, South London. The new site is designed by the architecture company KieranTimberlake, from Philadelphia, while the Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) has been supervising its construction in loco. To the relief of American tax-payers, the 1 billion $ price tag was fully covered by selling the old embassy and other US properties in the city. Once opened the embassy will host an 800-members staff to serve the 1,000 visitors expected per day.

The unusual location of the embassy, quite distant from the previous Hyde Park building, is expected to contribute to the economic revitalisation of the area by creating more business and job opportunities.

The new embassy was praised by Ambassador Barzun and former London mayor Boris Johnson.

A 'friendly' embassy

The architects’ objective was to create a modern, safe and energy efficient building but also a welcoming site for visitors and a celebration of freedom and democracy. The design is, therefore, a compromise between efficiency, safety and openness: it’s a nice, transparent and environmentally responsible fortress.

The construction of a new facility was motivated by the impossibility of guaranteeing the safety of the old Grosvenor Square building. Nevertheless, Republican Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the oversight committee, claimed that aesthetics was again favoured over security. However, the architect James Timberlake replied that the building complies with the most stringent safety requirements.

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The embassy is, in fact, brightly designed in order to make its security and sustainable features look beautiful.

The building occupies five-acres land and it is set back 100ft from the street, a space that was used to create gardens that are accessible to the public. The facility is also surrounded by a moat, disguised as an ornamental lake, and refilled thanks to the rainwater collection system, which also irrigates the gardens. The roof of the cube-shaped building is also fitted with solar panels and the ground heat is exploited. Finally, the concrete bulwarks are disguised as earthworks and its anti-truck bollards are fig-leafed with hedges.

The embassy is one of the first in the world to be made of glass. The walls are even veiled with a particular translucent plastic which prevents the building from overheating under the sun. The embassy’s outstanding environmental performance has been recognised by BREEAM and LEED indexes. The interior is designed on the basis of open-door policies of collaboration and sharing.

All offices have high ceilings and are properly lit. The embassy is also decorated with both American and British artworks.

Trump controversy

In spite of all the positive features of the new embassy just illustrated, Trump, blamed the sale of the old building, located in the high-end Mayfair district, for “peanuts”, to move to a former industrial site. In a tweet, Trump accused the Obama’s administration of signing a “#Bad Deal and cancelled his planned visit to London for this reason. While it was actually the Bush administration which firstly decided to relocate, the rationale behind it was to guarantee the security of the embassy and to move to a fully-owned facility. The land of the Grosvenor Square building is, in fact, a property of the Duke of Westminster.

The mayor of London Sadiq Khan couldn’t keep himself from tweeting back at Trump saying that he “finally got the message” that he is not welcome in the city. Also, a wax Trump figure appeared in front of the embassy after the US president’s announcement, for the entertainment of Londoners.