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article imageU.S. announces construction of new $1 billion embassy in U.K.

By Chris Dade     Feb 24, 2010 in World
The U.S. ambassador to the U.K., Louis Susman, announced on Wednesday that the Philadelphia-based architecture firm KieranTimberlake has won the competition to design his country's new embassy in London. It will cost $1 billion to construct.
As the U.S. embassy in London has confirmed KieranTimberlake emerged victorious from a process that began with 37 firms submitting designs.
That number was reduced to first nine and then four, as the final contenders "explored the symbolism of the embassy, its presence and position in the cityscape of London".
It was eventually decided that the winning design "met the goal of creating a modern, welcoming, timeless, safe and energy efficient embassy for the 21st century".
KieranTimberlake reportedly explained that it attempted:to resolve, in architectural terms, what an embassy aspires to be and what aspires to do. The expressive challenge is to give form to the core beliefs of our democracy -- transparency, openness, and equality -- and do so in a way that is both secure and welcoming
According to the London Times residents complained about the current embassy in Grosvenor Square with its stricter security measures, introduced after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Those critiques eventually led to the decision to relocate.
ABC News reports that the announcement of the departure from Grosvenor Square, where there has been a U.S. presence since 1785, when Founding Father and eventual President John Adams moved in to the Square to serve as his country's first ambassador to the U.K., was made in 2008.
Construction of the new Embassy in the district of Battersea, close to the River Thames, will begin in 2013, with the project due for completion four years later.
Key features of the new embassy, images of which can be viewed on the current embassy's website, include a 100-foot (30 metre) wide moat and surrounding parkland that will supposedly provide sufficient protection from potential terrorists to make blast barriers unnecessary.
More expensive to build than the U.S. embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and the embassy currently under construction in the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad, it is anticipated that the cost of the new building will be met from the proceeds of the sale of the current embassy to the Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company.
The cost is exclusive of VAT (Value Added Tax), the tax which usually applies to new buildings in the U.K., as the U.S. considers itself to be exempt from the taxes of the nation hosting its embassy.
At present it is calculated that U.S. diplomats have accrued some £32 million ($49 million) in unpaid congestion charges - the new embassy will be outside the congestion zone - and other fines.
The London Times observes that the refusal to pay the charges and fines led former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, to label former ambassador, Robert Tuttle, a “chiselling little crook”.
Conceding that there were difficulties in the past and the intention is for the U.S. embassy to be “a good neighbour" in its new home, Louis Susman said of the VAT issue:We intend to do what’s appropriate and we are working with the Treasury on that
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