KieranTimberlake, a Philadelphia-based architecture firm co-founded by Stephen Kieran ’73, has been selected to design the new American embassy in London, the United States Department of State announced yesterday. Construction is set to begin in 2013, and the new embassy is planned for completion by 2017. The project will cost approximately $500 million, according to The Washington Post.

“A bland glass cube clad in an overly elaborate, quiltlike scrim,” New York Times’s architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff wrote of the proposed designs yesterday. “It has all the glamour of a corporate office block.”

The main structure is a stout crystalline tower, its surface layered with a spiny support somewhat reminiscent of the concrete frame of Beinecke library. The design also calls for multiple gardens, including an “urban park” that curls around the central cube. A pond will occupy approximately a third of this parkland.

KieranTimberlake explained in a press release yesterday that this was a response to one of the firm’s primary conceptual challenges.

“The building must confront the environmental challenges all nations face with leading edge sustainable design.”

Another difficulty was designing a secure structure, one that would not be immediately vulnerable to terrorism. Ouroussoff wrote that this is perhaps why the spiraling meadows have been planned around the structure, to act “as camouflaged security barriers.”

“I have to be careful in talking about specific security requirements of this particular building,” the firm’s co-partner James Timberlake said yesterday to the Washington Post. “But the glass skin is quite robust.”

The runners-up in the design competition include Pritzker Prize-winning firms Morphosis and Richard Meier and Partners, which was founded by Davenport Visiting Professor Richard Meier.

The current American embassy in London was designed by Eero Saarinen ARC ’34 in 1960. KieranTimberlake is currently in the process of renovating Saarinen’s two residential colleges on campus, Morse and Ezra Stiles. The firm also completed work on Davenport, Pierson, Silliman and Berkeley colleges, in addition to renovating the Sterling Law School dining hall and designing the Sculpture Building and Gallery.

Click here to read and see more of KieranTimberlake’s design proposal for the new embassy.