US Embassy Building

Eero Saarinen, London, 1960


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Viewed from the south-east 

H. de Burgh Galway     Download Original

  • Viewed from the south-east    
  • The embassy from across Gorsvenor Square    
  • Close-up of one corner, showing the rich effect of the window mouldings. When looked at thus with the beam ends and corners, some of te excitement which one feels should have resulted from the whole facade treatment momentarily shows    
  • Detail of emposed ends of the first floor structural grid on the main facade, showing effect of light reflected from the pavement    
  • Detail of emposed ends of the first floor structural grid on the main facade, showing effect of light reflected from the pavement    
  • The main entrance lobby of the U.S Embassy    
  • Handrail of the main staircase in the north lobby at the point of turn on the landing    
  • The cruciform theme is pursued with consistency through much of the detailing on the main floor, revealing itself here on the heads of the bolts that secure the banisters underneath the the stairs    
  • The south lobby looking west from the landing of the Passport Office, with the entrance on the left    
  • The library from the entrance end, with purpose designed bookshelves and tables and special chairs designed by Saarinen for the Embassy. The balcony for further book-stacking engages the columns of the main structure visually, but not structurally    
  • Detail of column and balcony edge at point of non-engagement; the smallness of the clearence is seen, as well as the manner of cladding the structural column in its gold-anodised sheath    
  • The main lobby seen from the consular side, looking over the travertine-lined pool and fountain towards the lifts and lift-lobby Diffused daylight enters by way of plastic-screened lay-lights in the inerstices of the diagrid    
  • Stairs from the entrance lobby up to the main lobby, with the lift-lobby screen at right    
  • The Passport Office, which matches the library on the south side of the main front of the Embassy. The heavy green net curtains are standard for all public rooms at this level    
  • Glazed screen at the entrance to the main consular office space. Through the door may be seen standard office partitioning faced in white plastic and the continuous suspended ceiling    
  • Detail of the junction of the beam system of the corridor vault with structural columns and lighting cove at the edge of the main cafeteria ceiling    
  • One of the massive, leather-covered chairs, purpose-designed by the architects for the restaurant, but used wherever occasion demands in other parts of the Embassy, such as the library    
  • Standard window detailing in an office on an upper floor; the dark mullion between the opening lights corresponds to one of the gold-anodised mullions of the exterior views    
  • Relationship of the module of the acoustic-tile ceiling to the lighting troughs and a standard partition (the narrow tiles are the same dimension as the thickness of a partition)    
  • The Cultural Division    
  • Detail of cove lighting, and silk-panelled wall, both adapted to the former Ambassador    
  • Treatment of the under-window in the Ambassador    
  • Ground floor plan    
  • Original perspective drawing by Saarinen entered as part of his competition entry    
  • The diagrid was not part of the original design and only developed out of many post-competition drawings    
  • Early sketch by Saarinen of the site plan    

Embassy building in Grosvenor Square, central London

Emphasis is placed on the ground floor by raising the upper floors on a peristyle and a ‘false’ podium, likened to a ‘Greek temple’ and the effect is enhanced the entablature-like top storey.

The building has nine stories, three of which are below ground; raised on the podium, the ground floor becomes a piano-nobile level.

A grid of diagonally arranged concrete beams on the underside of the first floor extend out through the façade with atriglyph-like expression, further implying the Greek temple style.

The upper floors depart from this approach with a chequerboard veneer a more conventional attempt to be in tune with London tradition. Perched atop the facade is an eagle statue, by Theodore Roszak, with a 10-metre wing-span.

The interior detailing is fastidious with a light palette of white paint, white marble, travertine and gold.


  • Completed: 1960
  • Sector: Civic
  • Address: US Embassy, 24 Grosvenor Square, London, W1A 2LQ, United Kingdom

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