img(height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=2939831959404383&ev=PageView&noscript=1")

US Embassy Grosvenor Square London, 1955

Words:
Justine Sambrook
Credit: Henk Snoek / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Grosvenor Square was first linked to the US in 1785 when the first US minister resided there. During WW2 the American Chancery was located on one side with Eisenhower’s headquarters opposite, and the area was dubbed ‘Little America’. When a competition was held to design a new Chancery in 1955 entrants were encouraged to ‘grasp the historical meaning of the particular environment ’.

Eero Saarinen triumphed with a design intended to respect the square’s Georgian character. Its Portland stone facade was to harmonise with the surrounding buildings as it darkened in time to match its neighbours. The sturdy rectangular form represented US democracy, punctuated by lattice-like fenestration and crowned by a 35ft gilded aluminium eagle by Theodore Roszak.

The building received a frosty reception from the architectural establishment with Reyner Banham dismissing it as ‘monumental in bulk, frilly in detail’. The predicted weathering by soot was thwarted by the 1956 Clean Air Act and the London Observer likened the gleaming edifice to ‘costume jewellery’. Saarinen himself was not uncritical, responding ‘In my own mind the building is much better than the English think – but not quite as good as I wished it to be’. 

Latest

David Holmes, associate at AECOM, provides supply and fix costs for a range of commercial and industrial doors and windows

AECOM’s David Holmes gives an overview of current costs

Leeds is set for its first £1m penthouse flats in a development that has irked conservation organisations, Manchester is to become surf central, a new Derby performance space is set to replace what will be lost with the Assembly Rooms, and a specialist hospital is to be built in York where once Terry’s made chocolate.

Healthcare, housing and leisure schemes get the green light

Grenfell: Value Engineering - Scenes from the Inquiry leaves audiences shocked and angry at incompetence and indifference that led to 72 deaths

Account of incompetence and indifference leaves feelings of shock and anger

While there’s no doubt the housing market is undergoing huge changes, it’s not all simply due to Covid-19. Brian Green assesses the factors and future outlook

There’s more than the pandemic behind a changing sector

Nancy Sheung’s photographs reveal her hands-on construction experience, indomitable character and promotion of women in unlikely settings

Photographs reveal an unfazed woman in a man’s world