The United States Embassy in London's Grosvenor Square moves into a new building in a former railway yard, pleasing its present neighbors in classy Mayfair and severing a slice of history. The site was purchased at the beginning of former U.S. President Barack Obama's first term, but complications in installing the security system have delayed the opening beyond the end of his second term.
The present Modernist concrete embassy in London's most exclusive neighborhood, designed by Eero Saarinen in 1955, was deemed too fortress-like and too vulnerable to terrorism. The new building occupies a 4.9-acre site in a heavily-promoted new development named Nine Elms on the South Bank of the Thames. The 12-story cube, designed by U.S. architect Kieran Timberlake, looks like a conventional office block, but it is made of blastproof glass and solar cells. The security features are camouflaged.
The isolation at the new site worries some people, but it is temporary. State and local officials are hopeful that the embassy will stimulate development in the area, There are plans for two new Tube stations, and possibly a footbridge crossing the Thames.
According to the New York Times, the American connection to Grosvenor Square dates back to 1785-87, when John Adams, the first American envoy to the royal court, lived a few blocks away. The square is popularly known as "Little America" as Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower occupied one side to command the Allied forces in Europe. The embassy's facade, with its iconic 35-foot gilded aluminum eagle, will remain, after a decision by the British government to grant it landmark status in 2009.
Date written/update: 2017-07-12