The United States Pays Back Britain For Bunker Hill With $1 Billion Eyesore In London

kt-03As many on this blog know, I am a fan of good architecture. My father was one of the proteges and students of Mies Van der Rohe and I was raised in the Chicago circle of architects.  Thus, when I heard that we were building a new embassy in London, I was truly hopeful of a unique American contribution that celebrated the history and architecture of London.  Yet, in what seems a long-simmering payback for Bunker Hill (and perhaps Benny Hill), the United States just dumped a $1 billion blemish on the landscape of London.  Given Prince Charles’ long (and justified) complaint of “monstrous carbuncles,” we just added a new and giant carbuncle for our English cousins.

The new embassy will degrade the Nine Elms area of Wandsworth. It is the dubious work of Philadelphia-based KieranTimberlake and covers 5.6 million square feet with 12-story crystalline cube. It is adjoined by a moat. Yes, a moat. While the architect is quick to note that the “pond” does not surround the building entirely and thus not a moat, the English has dubbed it the American moat.  This appears an effort to protect the building from the incursion of a single element of taste.  The result is a Borg-like fortress for London’s already ravaged skyline.

Hopefully, to reassure the Brits, we will add a sign reading:

“We are the United States. Lower your eyes and surrender. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”

 

U.S. Ambassador Ambassador Barzun proclaimed at the ground breaking this week that:

“ Today is for celebrating a new facet of the special relationship.  The U.S. and the U.K. have long been partners in development across the globe.  But today we celebrate a different kind of development — the continued development and evolution of London itself.  We are proud to be putting down roots in Nine Elms.  And we’re proud to provide an anchor for more businesses and jobs, bringing thousands of new neighbors to fuel economic revitalization here.”

The United States is a world leader in architecture.  Yet, with $1 billion, we produced a building that looks like the corporate headquarters of a dot.com startup with the exterior elements of a 1970s Sears department store.  We would have been better off with a giant Apple store.

Yes, this is certainly a “new facet” . . . just not a good one.

73 thoughts on “The United States Pays Back Britain For Bunker Hill With $1 Billion Eyesore In London

  1. I agree – this is a hideous building – but as Paul pointed out “London is a mass of horrible architecture” European cities that were heavily bombed during WW II often have ugly buldings – look at Berlin.

    I looked up the other 3 finalists and IMO both Thom Mayne and Richard Meier submitted more appealing designs.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2010/02/london-embassy-runners-up-mayne-meier-pei-architects.html

    Ambassador, you are spoiling our view of the Thames with this boring glass cube”

    “The Guardian has learned that the only two British members of the seven-strong design jury “fought to the death” against their American counterparts in a failed bid to block a winning design which they argued was not world class and was unfit to represent the US in Britain. Lord Rogers, the architect of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, and Lord Palumbo, the property developer and art collector, felt so strongly about the inadequacies of the winning design, they submitted a “minority report” setting out their case to the US state department in Washington, which commissioned the building.

    As Susman unveiled the designs of the Philidephia-based firm of Kieran Timberlake – a 12-storey cube clad in a blastproof glass and plastic façade – it emerged the British jurors believe the Obama administration should have selected a rival design by a Californian designer, Thom Mayne, who won the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s version of the Nobel, in 2005. They were overruled by the five Americans on the panel, including former ambassador Clyde Taylor.

    Rogers and Palumbo are said to have thought the design was boring and “not good enough to represent one of the great nations in London”, said sources familiar with the jury process. By contrast, they considered Mayne’s design to be ‘touched by genius'”.

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/feb/23/us-ambassador-spoiling-view-embassy

    • Autumn – I think the last decent building built in London was St. Paul’s Cathedral, built after the great fire of 1666 by Sir Christopher Wren. There is a Georgian Circle that still survives (actually it is a curve) however I think the homes are still viable. Not sure exactly where it is, but it shows up in movies periodically. Built during the time of the Georges. Parliament looks like it should be sandblasted to the ground and rebuilt. I know they rebuilt Scotland Yard and took some static about that new building. Actually, you cannot build anything in London with being criticised by half of London or more. Remember people have gone to the same pub for 400 hundred years. A shiny new building is a poke in the eye to these people.

      The same thing will happen with this building as happened with the Eiffel Tower. Eventually, all the people who hated died and there was no one left alive who remember when it was hated. It will just be part of the landscape. BTW, I wonder if Obama personally picked the design?

    • autumn, thanks for the links. Personally, I see no genius in any of those designs, although the artist’s rendition of Mayne’s architecture appears to be situated well in the landscape. The work of the Pei firm seems reminiscent of that horrid Gherkin in the City. I don’t get the slavish use of glass in architectural works of the last 30+ years. Surely there’s a psych major somewhere who has written about what that means from a personality perspective. Many large mirrors to admire one’s self perhaps? I’m with KarenS and PCS; apparently Functionality and Context classes are no longer taught in architecture schools.

  2. Was the name of the architect Rubik?

    As long as we are complaining about architecture, I will put in a bad word for the main courtroom for 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. It is designed like the interior of a giant microwave oven.

  3. Gee, am I ever perplexed! What is the problem here??? The answer is simple! All we need to do is PRETEND that it is a beautiful structure! Don’t attach the stigma of ugliness to the building and it won’t be ugly! As a matter of fact, we can borrow a phrase from the Democrats and loudly proclaim, “There are NO ugly buildings!”And this should be no problem for us because we PRETEND stuff all the time.

    We PRETEND that some freakish male who wants to self-identify as a woman is PRESTO-CHANGEO, now a woman, and should be allowed to go tinkle and poopie in the women’s bathroom. Whether he is wearing a dress or not, or still has his penis attached.

    We PRETEND that in 2017, Black Poverty is a result of White Privilege or Institutionalized Racism, and not the result of irresponsible, trashy, whorish behavior on the part of black women popping out 70+% of their little heathens out of wedlock. We even PRETEND it is really Black Girl Magic! Sooo, why not simply call this Square Box Building Magic??? Then, we can love it and pretend it is a wonderful thing!

    We PRETEND that sodomy and anal fisting is a wonderfully peachy sort of sex, just as vital to Civilization as the kind of sex that makes babies and creates families! We PRETEND that we are proud when some male athlete comes out and admits that he lets other men insert their penises (and hands and tongues and feet and large pieces of furniture) into his rear end, and vice versa, even though there is a 20% rate of HIV among such peoples, right up there with the rate of lung cancer among smokers.

    We PRETEND that polygamous marriages are normal in 21st century America, when the cost of raising one or two kids stretches the beejusus out of most people’s finances, and that it should a constitutional right to have a string of wives, and presumably a string of husbands.

    We PRETEND that we are being just and fair in not executing felons, and particularly drug dealers, while the death rate of victims (admittedly willing victims) climbs above 50,000 per year.

    We PRETEND that offshoring our jobs and factories is a wonderful thing, that helps the economy, even while the rate of the permanently unemployed continues to grow.

    We PRETEND that Illegal Immigrants are a boon to our economy, even though they depress wages, sop up welfare benefits, and deprive American poor people of jobs and higher wages.

    We PRETEND that Hillary Clinton did not commit a crime with her private email server, and we PRETEND that she and Bill Clinton were not running a massive slush fund with their charity.

    I could go on and on about the great and mighty PRETENSES that we engage in, but hopefully, you get the point. This is just a building, and if it serves its function, then just PRETEND its beautiful. Just another brick in the wall, so to speak,

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  4. Looks like the “architect” had a fondness for fidget cubes!/Users/deborahbharucha/Desktop/Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 9.03.22 AM.png

  5. Turley’s blog- no mention of Trump’s pathetic choices for district court judgeships reflecting how little he cares about U.S. law. Two of the nominees are expected to withdraw after their failings were brought to light. A third, reportedly, couldn’t state basic information that a judge would be expected to know. Huffpo links, in entirety, the nominee’s questioning. The description of the hearing cites that nominee Matthew S. Peterson, admitted he had never tried a case to verdict in a courtroom.

  6. I’ll spit into the wind: It looks fantastic, and the grounds are beautiful. I for one am sick of embassies that look like Chicago banks or ersatz White Houses.

    There is no moat: That river is called the Thames, and it wasn’t put there to protect the building.

  7. While the structure might be appropriate for screaming out that it is a den of US spies, it’s completely inappropriate for any type of diplomacy.

  8. Sell that building to Apple. America needs to Brexit. Move a consulate to Liverpool and eat liver. Get the frig out of London. There are no more “capitols”. Or is it “capital”? That bldg is ugly. Not as ugly as the photo of Hillary shown often on the blog or the ugly photo of Allred. Call that bldg Obama Tower.

  9. “It is surrounded by a moat. Yes, a moat. This appears an effort to protect the building from the incursion of a single element of taste.”

    But

    From the source article:

    “There is no imposing security barrier to protect the highly visible embassy in a city that has this year been targeted repeatedly by extremists.

    Instead there are some public gardens with benches on the edge of the property, then a pond to keep unauthorized people from approaching the new building south of the River Thames. Officials are quick to emphasize the pond is not a moat, it does not encircle the entire building.”
    ***************
    In what sense is the “pond” a moat? Btw I think it looks like a Waterford cut glass brandy decanter.

  10. My father was a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright and I studied the Chicago school of architects. For once I agree completely with you. The embassy is wrong in every detail, an obscenity.

  11. Actually, I think the Shard is a piece of crap and Prince Charles really knows nothing about architecture. He lives in a home that should be torn down and replaced by low-rent apts. And he should find a nice house to live in. London is a mass of horrible architecture, this is middling. Actually, it is an “interesting” design, however, it is a bad picture.

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