There are two signature elements to the Embassy Gardens masterplan, the use of linear parks to create a high value city-scape and the use of bricks as a key expression of the architecture of the buildings in order to create character areas in an area that was formerly low density industrial land.
A regular grid of slender brick piers organises the elevations, their strong verticality giving a nod to the grouped bay windows of London's mansion block typology as well as to the American school of Louis Sullivan. Together, they stand as a masonry cluster of individual buildings which, when read from a distance, form a unified backdrop to the new US Embassy. The use of brick as a principal material ties the development together both in itself and its locality in the context of Battersea Power Station.
The choice of colour for the masonry and associated materials will be an important factor in the success of the buildings. The buildings have taken inspiration from surrounding historical and contemporary references, including the livery of the original railway line to the south and local institutions. Together with these there are also references to how such colours are brought together in art, such as Paul Klee’s ‘Picture of a Town’ (Red-Green Gradated), 1923; and through nature meeting buildings as expressed where urban parks meet the city, with reference to London, New York and other local precedents. The colours contribute to each building’s individuality, creating variety and a sense of ownership across the site for those using the buildings and from a distance where they will be seen collectively within a wider context.
Ranging from 10 to 22 storeys this exceptionally large-scale project required significant logistical and managerial skill from the brickwork team to produce this level of quality at such heights. An interesting mixture of bonds enhances the brick and adds an immediate natural character to the buildings. Simple stretcher bond on the lighter blocks, stunningly laid Flemish bond on the glazed sections enhanced with uniform black mortar and, uniquely in LMB’s experience in the UK, an American bond – 6 stretcher courses to one heard, as well as some signature stack bonding and string courses. The extensive use vertical panels combining a continual recessed brick panel bounded by slim brick piers rising up the building required high levels of skill setting out to ensure that bond remained true.
Exceptional care and craftsmanship was required to lay the green glazed bricks to for fill the architectural intent below the acrylic sky-pool linking the two blocks. LMB oversaw the procurement and installed an extensive masonry support system to provide adequate cavity depth to allow for the signature deep reveals to the windows and spandrel panels.