The US Embassy, Nine Elms, London

The US Embassy, designed by Kieran Timberlake

Dear Readers, after my visit to Battersea Power Station last week we headed back to the brand new tube station, only to find that it was closed because of flooding at Kennington. This doesn’t augur very well, as it hadn’t been raining – Transport for London explained that the piece of line between Charing Cross and Battersea Power Station has been electrified in one chunk, so any problems will cause delays right along this stretch. Sigh. Nevermind, every cloud has a silver lining, in this case a chance to have a closer look at the Kieran Timberlake-designed US Embassy at Nine Elms. The cube shape and interesting ‘kites’ (made of the same material that covers the Eden Centre in Cornwall) that cover the façade are supposed to reflect the ‘transparency, openness and equality’ of the US Government. Some more cynical observers did point out that it seems to be surrounded by a moat, although this is apparently also part of the ecological design of the building.

The pond/moat

I rather liked it, actually, though what I liked even more was the planting around the outside. Some of the trees are just going red, and I suspect that in a month or so there will be an echo of the ‘fall colour’ so beloved of New Englanders everywhere.

The ‘prairie planting’ here is heavy on the grasses, with flowering plants peeping through.

And someone has actually managed to get the flowering rush to flower, which is more than I seem able to do.

Flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus)

Apparently there are different themed gardens within the Embassy itself, reflecting the different habitats to be found in the USA. I shall have to get myself accredited and pop in for a visit with my camera, though getting past the chaps with the machine guns might be a small challenge.

But wait, what is this, joining two apartment buildings opposite the embassy?

This is the Sky Pool, and it’s 35 metres above the ground. Holy moly. It makes my spine curl just looking at it. It is ten metres long and required all kinds of engineering brilliance to take account of the movement between the two buildings, the wind, and the need for cleaning and maintenance. The acrylic which forms the pool is 36 centimetres thick at the bottom and 18 centimetres thick at the sides, which doesn’t seem that much when you think about the weight of the water that it must be holding.

I’m sure that swimming in this pool must be a truly magical experience, but it isn’t one that’s available to everyone – the residents in the affordable housing in the development at Embassy Gardens can see the pool but can’t use it, even if they pay extra. Too many housing developments in the UK have this kind of segregation between the people in the ‘posh part’ of the estate and those in the (slightly cheaper) part. At Embassy Gardens, the residents of the affordable housing even have to use separate entrances and are not allowed to use not only the pool but the gym and various other facilities. Developers and management committees shouldn’t be allowed to get away with these kinds of segregation – it fosters even more division than is already present. I would love to think that an exhausted nurse could have a swim in that pool after a shift, or that a care worker could dabble her toes in the water and admire the view. As I get older I have less and less tolerance for this kind of nonsense. What kind of world to we want to live in?

7 thoughts on “The US Embassy, Nine Elms, London

  1. Claire

    Read a few things about this Sky pool online and I agree with you. I am sure that there are examples of this kind of planning over here, although I think that they avoid this kind of situation by having « cheaper »buildings in different areas than the luxury ones and this is probably no better…But I don’t know much about this. The new American Embassy looks beautiful, especially the gardens…Hope that I will soon be able to come to London to see it.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      I’m sure you’re right Mal, but there’s very little detail online about the security measures (which I can kind of understand) though there is lots of speculation. Also the kites are only on certain parts of the building, so I’m not sure how scanner proof they would make it. I bet there’s a whole host of things going on that aren’t so overt too…

  2. endean0

    wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments, Segregation like this is only a few steps away from Ghettos and on an everyday level what could be worse that having these delights dangled in front of you knowing that you can’t use them.


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