David Chipperfield Architects has unveiled the first images of proposals to convert the soon-to-be empty US Embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square into a hotel
The practice was chosen for the prize job last year ahead of a number of big names including Foster + Partners and KPF. The invited contest was run by Malcolm Reading Consultants for the building’s owners Qatari Diar.
The Grade II-listed landmark was built in 1957-60 and designed by Eero Saarinen. The new plans, which will go out to public consultation next week, feature 137 hotel rooms, five restaurants, six shops, a spa and a 1,000-person ballroom built behind the retained ’exposed concrete diagrid’ facade.
Describing his approach, Chipperfield said: ’Our design proposals protect and respect the significant architectural and structural characteristics of Eero Saarinen’s design, with a focus on restoring and enhancing this unique building to secure its long-term future at the heart of Mayfair.
’We have studied the building’s design and its history as well as its surroundings to deliver an architecturally and socially coherent proposal, which will transform this purpose-built embassy into a world-class hotel.’
The building will be vacated by 2017 after US diplomatic staff move into a new building drawn up by Philadelphia-based Kieran Timberlake within the Nine Elms regeneration project.
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 facades, 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.’
English Heritage called Saarinen ‘an outstanding figure in 20th-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 Yorke, Rosenberg and Mardall (YRM) 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 the Second World War.
In 1968, the embassy 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).
A public exhibition of Chipperfield’s proposals - which have been designed with engineers AKTII - will run from 11 to 16 April at 24 Grosvenor Hill.
The plans are due to be submitted to Westminster City Council next month (May 2016).