Embassy Gardens is a new riverside district in London developed around the new United States Embassy on Nine Elms. The area is witnessing significant regeneration which will create a new mixed-use central London neighbourhood replacing the warehouses that previously occupied the area. The Embassy Gardens masterplan is governed by design principles conceived to create an urban environment that orchestrates the relationship between architecture, landscape and public space to create desirable living spaces.
One Embassy Gardens is one of three plots on the site defined as ‘object’ buildings—landmarks-- contrasting with the space-positive residential buildings that form the majority of the development. The district is organised around a landscaped pedestrian spine known as the Linear Park which extends all the way through to Vauxhall, introducing valuable recreational space. One Embassy Gardens is positioned along the Linear Park, increasing its prominence as an urban landmark.
One Embassy Gardens also sits directly opposite the much larger US Embassy, which dominates the area because of its bulk. The challenge was to design a building that would perform its role as an urban landmark when seen alongside the dominant cube of the US Embassy with its distinctive shading devices. Our response was to design the building as a finely-crafted metal box, elevated high above the neighbouring Linear Park to allow views under the building.
Mixed use: Offices and Retail
The elevated box was formed from double-height stainless steel panels with a pattern that changes to create bigger openings at the higher levels that open up to the river and the views along the Linear Park, and changes in response to the different conditions around the four sides. Two double-height wintergardens were introduced along the western façade, allowing the greenery to reappear inside the building, visually continuing the Linear Park and helping animate the façade.
Elevating the building created a generous double-height lobby along the western edge, forming a continuation of the Linear Park inside the building and creating a prominent frontage facing the US Embassy. The elevated metal screen was an intentional move away from the ubiquitous and decontextualized slick glass office building; the intention was to create a building that contributes to the making of a distinct sense of place and relationship between architecture and public space. Crucially, the façade has a sense of depth with the glass, surface set back from the solid panels, giving the openings enough space to create a play of light and shadow, giving texture and solidity to the façade.