The second phase of Embassy Gardens will create 2,000 homes in the Nine Elms area. Digital social agency The 7th Chamber caught up with designer Hal Currey from HAL Architects to discuss the hotly anticipated sky pool and the challenges the team has faced so far
What’s the overarching inspiration behind the design of Embassy Gardens and what sort of things have inspired specific parts of the design, such as the streetscape?
We began by studying London streets and squares, as well as the larger American examples all of which display a range of party wall conditions which articulate the streetscape. We were keen that each building had its own character as well as being identified as part of the wider development. In terms of the use of masonry and brickwork, we have been keen to include a variety of bonding types within the brickwork as well as decorative spandrel panels which are a direct reference to both the American school of Louis Sullivan, and the detailing of Victorian mansion blocks in London. The use of green glazed bricks was informed by the original livery for the London South West Railway Company, which runs to the south and treatment of pub facades for the Wandsworth based Youngs Brewery.
The sky pool is naturally the centrepiece of this amazing design, but what do you think are some other outstanding examples of design in the development?
The landscape is as important as the architecture. We have thought carefully about how the residents journey from arriving by tube or car, a walk along the linear park, beneath the sky pool and across a green ravine to the entrance lobby.
As a rare development in the centre of London, what measures did you need to take to ensure it fit in with the rest of the cityscape?
Given the lack of an existing context we had a relatively blank canvas but had to respect the viewing corridors through to the Palace of Westminster and provide a suitable backdrop to the new US Embassy. We were mindful that the spaces between the buildings will be key to the development’s success. London is famous for its green spaces and the inclusion of the Linear Park will provide residents and visitors with a new public open space.
What has been the biggest obstacle in the design of Embassy Gardens?
The sky pool is certainly the biggest technical challenge and wouldn’t have been possible without the developments in acrylic structures. The client and design team were determined this should be ‘structure free’ in appearance.
With so much eye catching architecture in the capital, what do you feel makes Embassy Gardens unique?
The sky pool apart, much of the detail and craft of Embassy Gardens is understated. The differences in pattern, texture, depth of reveal and material are subtle. We hope that this variety and range of treatment will add to London’s strong tradition of masonry buildings.
What sort of craft training has been brought to the table in terms of those working on the design?
We have spent a good deal of time studying brickwork and terracotta examples. We are working with specialists in ceramics and glazing in the UK, the Netherlands and Austria. These skills are being used across Embassy Gardens.
What is your favourite part of working on the development?
The collaborative team effort has been extraordinary and being able to walk around the first phase of Embassy Gardens after a number of years of design and construction is great. Even better is seeing the first residents move in.
See more of London’s most talked about development in the video below…