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Chipperfield lined up for US Embassy overhaul

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David Chipperfield Architects has landed the prize job to convert the soon-to-be empty US Embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square into a hotel

According to sources, the practice was chosen ahead of a number of big names including Foster + Partners and KPF to revamp the grade II- listed landmark built between 1957-60 designed by Eero Saarinen.

The building will be vacated by 2017 after US diplomatic staff move to a new embassy building drawn up by Philadelphia-based Kieran Timberlake within the Nine Elms regeneration project.

It is understood the invited contest was run by Malcolm Reading Consultants for the building’s owners Qatari Diar.

A spokesman for Qatari Diar refused to confirm that Chipperfield had won the competition, stating: ‘A range of options on the best use of this important site are currently being considered.

‘Qatari Diar is committed to finding the best solution for both the local community and shareholders; it would therefore be premature to comment further at this very early stage in the process.’

David Chipperfield had not responded to calls from AJ by the time of publication.

The Grosvenor Square building was listed in 2009 by Historic England (then English Heritage) on the grounds of architectural and historic interest.

At the time, the watchdog said it had decided to list the building ‘for the strongly-articulated design and dynamic façades, well-detailed stonework and consistency of detail’.

It said: ‘Of particular note is the innovative application of the exposed concrete diagrid - an intelligent combination of structural expression and decorative motifs which provides cohesion to the whole and which illustrates Saarinen’s principles of marrying form to structure, interior to exterior - and his close involvement in detail and execution.’

The heritage organistation called Saarinen ‘an outstanding figure in twentieth century architecture’ and said the building was an early example of a ‘modernist yet contextual’ approach to design’ in a sensitive urban location.

Saarinen was assisted by by Yorke, Rosenberg and Mardall as UK executive architects, with FJ Samuely as structural engineers.

Its historic interest stemmed from the strong USA association with Grosvenor Square, which was the nerve centre for the country’s armed forces in the UK during World War II.

In 1968, the building became the focus for anti-USA sentiment during protests against the Vietnam War.

Qatari Diar bought the building in 2009 (see AJ 03.11.09). Last year,developer Chelsfield Advisers lodged a claim against it in the High Court over payments on contract signed at the time relating to the redevelopment of the building. The case is understood to be ongoing.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Geoff Williams

    This is an interesting development that requires the top solutions in terms of it's security and threat of fire. The building has attracted a good deal of activity, from suspicious factions, over the years. Security in this building must be high on any developer's agenda. Enhanced fire survival electric cables, type MICC, having a two hour fire rating, is vital. Best practice must apply in this particular instance.

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