Beacon from a Distance

International
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
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Richard Meier Partners U.S. Embassy

Architecture writer Robert Booth reports in The Guardian that the only two British jurors on the selection committee for the new U.S. Embassy in London pronounced that the Kieran Timberlake design was “not good enough to represent one of the great nations in London.” Whether in meetings or in a “Minority Report” remains unclear, the two Lords on the jury, architect Richard Rogers and developer/art collector Peter Palumbo, allegedly found the design boring and that they “fought to the death” to swing votes in favor of the Thomas Mayne scheme that they considered “touched by genius.”

As other U.S. critics conclude that Kieran Timberlake did a decent job with a near impossible building type—fortified beacon of open government, welcoming to some but impenetrable to all—the dust-up also extended to whether or not the U.S. government will agree to pay sales taxes on the $500 million 12-story building wrapped in blast-proof glass and EFTE plastic.

In further asides overheard at the reception in London last night where not only the winning design but also the three losers (in addition to those by Mayne’s Morphosis, Pei, Cob Freed & Partners, and Richard Meier) will be on display through March, several mistook the bowed and fragmented Meier entry as the work of Thom Mayne.

model of Richard Meier Partners U.S. Embassy

To perhaps help with the grieving process, Meier himself quickly sent around a press release with detailed images of his own design, writing that “We’re very proud of the work we did on the London Embassy competition. We proposed a timeless architecture to give the New London Embassy the authority of a landmark and felt that we had achieved this goal through economy of gesture, a delight in pure beauty, and respect for the public’s need to be inspired and engaged by the buildings in their midst. We felt we had a very strong proposal and were honored to be among the four finalists. While we are disappointed we won’t be working in London this year, we are continuing to expand our work overseas. We thank the jury for their consideration.”

In the end, Kieran Timberlake who are youngish, relatively conservative, adepts—at least by U.S. standards—at sustainable design, and not likely to express themselves too theoretically in person or form-making was a predictable choice for a government besieged by foes, whether real, anticipated, or only predictable.

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