Design Excellence of U.S. Embassies: Openness and Security

U.S. Embassy in / KieranTimberlake Architects

“The works of our artists, architects, and preservationists provide us with another language of diplomacy. A transcendent language that allows us to convey values that are at once uniquely American yet speak to all of humanity.  Increasingly in this world, art and architecture help us maintain our sense of openness and liberation.” — Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, April 12, 2010 

An embassy is much more than a building or a work of architecture; it functions as a symbolic representation of countries’ relationships to one another.  It represents the universal language of diplomacy – “communicating values and ideals, extending well beyond any moment in time”.  An embassy has the difficult task of representing two diametrically opposed concepts: security and openness.  The former typically overpowers the latter in importance, which is most probably why when we think of foreign embassies, it conjures up images of stately monolithic buildings surrounded by tall fences and menacing guards or “bunkers, bland cubes, lifeless compounds”, according to Tanya Ballard Brown of NPR’s All Things Considered.

More on the design excellence of embassies after the break…

KieranTimberlake receives 2010 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award

Loblolly House

KieranTimberlake is the proud recipient of the 2010 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Architecture. The National Design Awards honor outstanding contributions from the design world, including architecture, fashion, lifetime achievement, and sustainable design solutions.

Some projects by previously featured at ArchDaily:
- Loblolly House
- US Embassy in London
- Kohler LivingHome
- AD Interviews: KieranTimberlake

US Embassy in London / KieranTimberlake Architects

View from Consular Plaza
View from Consular plaza (rendering by Studio amd)

KieranTimberlake has been announced as the winner of the design competition for the new US in London.

According to a statement by the US Embassador in the UK, KieranTimberlake´s design “meets the goal of creating a modern, welcoming, timeless, safe and energy efficient embassy for the 21st century.”

Regarding the “safety” issues, KT’s design shows an interesting solution away from embassies from the early 90s surrounded by large walls with no urban considerations, using a park with a pond instead. The Embassy is no only an icon, but an urban piece “honoring the English tradition of urban parks and gardens as the context for many civic buildings”, connecting the Thames embankment to the new pedestrian way to the south.

view from Embassy park (rendering by Studio amd)

“Viewed from the north at the proposed plaza, the embassy grounds will provide the prospect of an open park, a landscape of grasses rising gracefully to the new embassy colonnade, with the required secure boundaries incised into the hillside and out of view. Instead of a perimeter-walled precinct, the site to the north and south is a welcoming urban amenity, a park for the city that fuses the new embassy to the city of London. Alternatives to perimeter walls and fences are achieved through landscape design.”

The pure geometry of the cube is fragmented by a highly specialized ETFE (ethylene-tetrafluroethylene, used in several recent buildings) facade optimized to shade interiors from east, west and south sun while admitting daylight and framing large open view portals to the outside. If you take a closer look to the renderings from the inside you will notice that the ETFE foils include thin photovoltaic film that intercepts unwanted solar gain in certain angles. The scrim also renders the largely transparent façades visible to migratory birds to discourage bird-strikes.

More information and renderings about the Embassy after the break. I also recommend to read our interview with Stephan Kieran.

AD Interviews: Kieran Timberlake

Stewart Middle School, Sidwell Friends School © Halkin Photography LLC
Stewart Middle School, Sidwell Friends School © Halkin Photography LLC

Interview conducted, condensed + edited by Sarah Wesseler

What do research and development mean in today’s design field? To learn more about architectural R&D, I turned to KieranTimberlake, a Philadelphia-based firm that has earned wide acclaim for its innovative work in arenas such as prefabrication and sustainable design. Partner Stephen Kieran and research director Billie Faircloth spoke with me about the history and practice of the firm’s in-house research team.

Kohler LivingHome, a prefabricated and sustainable house by Kieran Timberlake

LivingHomes®, a developer of modern, sustainably designed, prefabricated homes, has partnered with Kohler Co., to present the Kohler LivingHome, designed by architects Kieran Timberlake.  Designed to achieve LEED-Platinum certification, the two-story Kohler Living features furnishings, materials, products and technologies that showcase the best in high design and technology with a low ecological footprint.

Designed to achieve USGBC’s LEED for Homes Platinum certification, the Kohler LivingHome reflects LivingHomes’ Z6 Sustainable Building Goals which include six key objectives for all LivingHomes’ construction and operation: Zero Water, Zero Energy, Zero Waste, Zero Emissions, Zero Carbon, and Zero Ignorance.

This house was premiered at the TED Conference in Long Beach, CA a few weeks ago. Here´s a time-lapse video of the house being assembled:

From the recycled steel and timber-efficient engineered lumber that make up the modules, central vacuum system, and mini-duct air distribution and ventilation systems that help improve indoor air quality; to the bio-composite wood siding, recycled glass tiles, blown-in insulation, high-performance windows with recycled frames, water-saving features and the home resource monitoring system that displays water, energy, and gas usage in real-time, the Kohler LivingHome is built to achieve a minimal environmental footprint.

The Kohler LivingHome is being offered for sale at $499,950.
For more information, click here. Images of the house interiors, after the break.