The United States unveiled plans Tuesday for its new $1 billion high-security embassy in London — the most expensive it has ever built.
The proposals were met with relief from both the present embassy's Mayfair neighbors and the residents and developers of the Battersea wasteland where the vast crystalline cube, surrounded by a moat, will be built.
The decision to abandon the former site in Grosvenor Square by 2016 came after a prolonged battle with residents angered by the security measures demanded after the September 11 attacks. More than a hundred residents took out a full-page advertisement in The Times of London to oppose tighter measures that they said would leave the area more vulnerable to attack.
The new embassy, on a former industrial site behind Battersea power station known for its gay clubs, will be designed by Kieran Timberlake, the Philadelphia architect.
A moat 100-foot -wide and rolling parkland will separate the building from the main road, protecting it from would-be bombers and removing the need for the blast barriers that so dismayed the people of Mayfair.
The State Department sought to play down the cost of security measures, noting the expense of London building work. But the price puts the London embassy above the U.S.'s most fortified missions, including the Baghdad embassy, which cost $600 million but required a further $100 million of work on air conditioning, and the Islamabad embassy, still under construction, which has cost more than $850 million.