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American Embassy design by Pei, Cobb, Freed & Partners

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The architects of the shortlisted scheme for the new American Embassy in London explain their design

This design envisions the embassy as a pavilion occupying the centre of Embassy Square – an urban space interpreted, following London tradition, as including the entire embassy property and its surrounding streets.

The pavilion is composed of two distinct parts: a two-storey stone-clad base (the ‘lower register’), which houses spaces that engage the public and related staff areas; and an eight-storey glass-sheathed volume (the ‘upper register’), which rises above the base to house internal departments and service spaces.

The architecture of the lower register is characterised by features that are functionally specific, boldly rhetorical and engaged with the surrounding landscape. The more compact upper register is functionally non-specific and has a serene detachment, quietly but memorably addressing the river and the city beyond. The pavilion has the dignity of the diplomatic presence, while engaging its urban context in a way that mitigates the negative impact of required security measures.

By limiting the height of the pavilion to 45m, we have complied with the right to light of neighbouring properties and addressed the concerns of English Heritage about the embassy’s potential impact on the Westminster World Heritage Site.
Pei Cobb Freed & Partners has completed over 200 building projects around the world. This year, IM Pei received the RIBA Royal Gold Medal

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