London: Trump & The New American Embassy Saga

July 12, 2018

As American President Donald Trump begins his London visit one stop that is probably not on the itinerary is the new American Embassy on Nine Elms in South London. The president had previously voiced his complaints on the sale of the former home since 1938 for America’s diplomatic personnel on Grosvenor Square in Mayfair as being essentially given away and was a perfect location for the American diplomats. 


President Trump said:


"I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for 'peanuts,' only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!" he said.


Rumours by estate agents in the local property market have speculated that the old embassy had sold for around £500 million. It was later reported that the Grosvenor property was actually sold for £315 million thus being a bit below what others had valued the property as being. The former embassy which was actually two-US owned buildings was sold to Qatari Diar to eventually be renovated into a five-star hotel.


But the United States move to Nine Elms is not a solo one as other countries such as France and Canada are moving their diplomatic missions to other London city locations.




After the 9/11 terror strikes in the United States a thorough review was made on the security of America’s diplomatic installations worldwide. In the case of London the decision to move the embassy was actually made by then President George W. Bush. The other problem for the old embassy was the size could not accommodate all of the staff needed for day-to-day operations.


Speaking earlier this year to the Telegraph US Ambassador Woody Johnson said:


“I agree with President Trump that Grosvenor Square, in the heart of London, was a perfect location for our embassy.”


“Security concerns after September 11 meant we had to move to a location that could better protect American citizens and our British neighbours.”


Also Ambassador Johnson said:


“It is the most secure, hi-tech and environmentally friendly embassy that the United States has ever built.”


One complaint by President Trump was the cost of the new embassy.


Ambassador Jackson counters that claim:


“Purchased and built from the sale of our London properties, the new embassy did not cost the US taxpayer a cent. Yet is one of the most advanced embassies have ever built.”


And the most expensive to date at $1 billion + USD.


The new US Embassy, London GB



The New Embassy


Designed by James Timberlake of Kieran Timberlake architects of Philadelphia the description of the building in the Financial Times is viewed as an “embodiment of peace and security” and which is “simultaneously of the UK and yet stand[ing] for American democracy.” 


The architects own description stays of the new embassy:


“Curving walkways continue into the interior of the building with gardens on each floor that extend the spiraling movement upward. The internal gardens evoke American landscapes, enhancing circulation by providing alternative paths through the building and informal meeting and gathering spaces.”


“Water, energy and materials are managed with integrated building systems that work together and enhance each other.”


The Chancery is described as :


“The Embassy's form is that of a transparent crystalline cube set atop a monumental colonnade—a radiant beacon at the heart of Nine Elms. Its high-performance facade is made of laminated glazing and an outer envelope of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), a transparent film shaped to minimize solar gain and glare, affording generous natural light throughout the interior and access to the site's striking views. The tonality of the envelope shifts with the weather and time of day.”


The 12-storey, 512,000 square feet glass cube structure is known for being energy self-sufficient or carbon neutral with its solar panels. And rather than the usual walls, barbed wire and barriers for terror prevention this new diplomatic mission is surrounded by a partial moat which also serves as a rain water  run-off reservoir.


For other security purposes the the walls are triple glazed and bomb-proof and a Faraday cage enclosure to shield the embassy of electronic eavesdroppers along with trenches and raised terraces as described in a report by The Times.


As part of the inside green environment each floor has a garden based on U.S. landscapes including the Canyonlands, the Midwest and the Gulf Coast.


The location is in the growing £20 billion planned regeneration of the Battersea and Nine Elms waterfront. The commercial and residential area near the infamous Battersea Power Station which is currently having its massive re-development  nearing completion that will also be the future European headquarters for Apple computer

US Embassy, Baghdad, Iraq 


The other expensive and controversial new diplomatic mission was the new American embassy built in Baghdad, Iraq and opened in 2009. 


That embassy located on the Tigris is larger than Vatican City and cost $750 million which provides for 1,350 embassy employees access to a shopping mall, a food court, s a six-lane swimming pool, a fitness centre and other sports facilities.


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