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Billion dollar US embassy opens in London

The new US embassy in London opened its doors to the public for the first time on Tuesday, a billion dollar glass mon...

Posted: Jan 16, 2018 11:42 AM
Updated: Jan 16, 2018 11:42 AM

The new US embassy in London opened its doors to the public for the first time on Tuesday, a billion dollar glass monolith presiding over a former industrial site south of the city.

With a $1 billion price tag, the embassy is not only one of the most expensive buildings of its kind in the world, but also perhaps one of the most notorious after US President Donald Trump last week said he was canceling a planned visit to London in part because of his proclaimed outrage over the cost.

The new embassy, a 12-story glass cube designed by Philadelphia architecture firm KieranTimberlake, will house around 800 staff and is expected to receive 1,000 visitors daily.

The building was paid for by selling other US government properties in London.

Melding security and style

The embassy occupies an almost five-acre site in an area that has been a focus of regeneration. Security requirements are tight -- it is set back 100 feet from the street and boasts a semi-circular pond as a security measure.

Read more: The pressures of designing a world-class embassy

Inside the glass monolith, tiny stars adorn the windows and internal gardens feature everything from cacti to ferns, in an homage to America's varied landscape.

Outside, the roof has been fitted with solar panels and a rainwater collection system for irrigation and flushing.

From concrete to glass

The new embassy is a world away from its current concrete home, designed by Finnish-American modernist architect Eero Saarinen.

The historic Mayfair site is now set to be converted into a luxury hotel by Qatari investors.

Trump criticizes deal

But don't expect any ribbon-cutting ceremonies from Trump, who last week tweeted his disapproval of what he described as the Obama administration's "bad deal" to sell the previous location in the high-end Mayfair district in central London and move to the former industrial site south of the River Thames.

In fact, the decision to move out of the Grosvenor Square building was taken under the Bush administration in 2008, principally because the building was proving harder to secure in an age of terrorist threats -- and also, in small part at least, because the US government did not wholly own it.

British property law historically allows the ground underneath buildings to be held by people and entities other than the owners of the bricks and mortar above. In this case, the land is owned by the Duke of Westminster, whose property empire controls much of the land in central London, and is leased back to the US at a nominal -- or "peppercorn" -- rent.

"In the end, we realized that the goal of a modern, secure and environmentally sustainable embassy could best be met by constructing a new facility," former US ambassador Robert Tuttle said of the decision to move.

Some members of the US Congress have also criticized the hefty price tag.

At a hearing in 2015, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican and chairman of the House oversight committee, slammed the administration's construction process as mismanaged, resulting in a building with an "opulent-looking" glass facade that favored aesthetics over security.

However, architect James Timberlake told CNN the design met strict security requirements and the gleaming exterior was "one of the first glass embassies in the world," which conveyed an "open and welcoming" atmosphere.

A special relationship

Officials have touted the new embassy as a celebration of the special relationship between the US and UK. In December, touring the new site, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson boasted that Trump would like it. "We are looking forward to welcoming the President when he comes over here. I think he will be very impressed with this building and the people who occupy it," he said.

Unfortunately for Johnson and the embassy staff, Trump doesn't appear to see it in quite the same way.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 333180

Reported Deaths: 7502
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22901279
Hinds22780438
Harrison19569326
Rankin14851287
Jackson14342251
Madison10692227
Lee10437179
Jones8746169
Forrest8210157
Lauderdale7561243
Lowndes6790150
Lamar669688
Lafayette6459124
Washington5516139
Pearl River4915149
Bolivar4909134
Oktibbeha478498
Panola4723112
Marshall4654106
Warren4640127
Pontotoc440473
Monroe4255137
Union425379
Neshoba4182180
Lincoln4098115
Hancock405088
Leflore3565125
Pike3530112
Tate349588
Alcorn343974
Sunflower343093
Adams333387
Scott331775
Yazoo331173
Simpson314890
Copiah313867
Itawamba310180
Coahoma308785
Tippah298868
Prentiss292963
Covington282483
Marion279580
Leake278475
Wayne270743
Grenada266388
George261651
Newton256664
Tishomingo236869
Winston235584
Jasper226148
Attala220873
Chickasaw216360
Stone210237
Holmes195674
Clay192254
Clarke182080
Tallahatchie181742
Calhoun177532
Smith175935
Yalobusha169440
Walthall141548
Lawrence137726
Greene135734
Amite132843
Noxubee131635
Perry131038
Montgomery130944
Carroll124531
Webster117532
Jefferson Davis113334
Tunica111127
Benton104625
Claiborne104331
Kemper100729
Humphreys99133
Franklin85923
Quitman83519
Choctaw81319
Wilkinson74632
Jefferson69728
Sharkey51518
Issaquena1696
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 570667

Reported Deaths: 11483
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson834821584
Mobile45819855
Madison36785532
Tuscaloosa26757465
Shelby26612255
Montgomery25739624
Baldwin23810325
Lee16801181
Calhoun15130332
Morgan14941289
Etowah14662368
Marshall12806235
Houston11515292
Elmore10654217
St. Clair10521251
Limestone10472158
Cullman10257204
Lauderdale9991253
DeKalb9298191
Talladega8739187
Walker7594286
Autauga7419113
Jackson7269117
Blount7184139
Colbert6583142
Coffee6045131
Dale5326117
Russell465842
Chilton4645117
Covington4579125
Franklin444381
Tallapoosa4379157
Escambia420082
Chambers3852125
Dallas3688163
Clarke364462
Marion3380106
Pike324879
Lawrence3192101
Winston291072
Bibb280165
Geneva271583
Marengo258567
Barbour243461
Pickens239162
Butler236172
Hale231878
Fayette224564
Henry205145
Randolph194944
Cherokee193948
Monroe192141
Washington177139
Macon167552
Crenshaw164458
Clay162559
Cleburne159145
Lamar149538
Lowndes144354
Wilcox129231
Bullock125642
Conecuh118130
Coosa116029
Perry109928
Sumter108032
Greene97836
Choctaw63825
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