The U.S. Is Building Its New London Embassy on a Stone-Age Campground

The shimmering, bomb-resistant glass structure will be surrounded by a moat.

One a caveman campground, now a construction site for the new U.S. embassy in London.
National Journal
Marina Koren
May 30, 2014, 9:16 a.m.

Four years ago, a Phil­adelphia ar­chi­tec­ture firm won the right to design the new United States Em­bassy build­ing in Lon­don.

And in the last year, ar­chae­olo­gists mon­it­or­ing the con­struc­tion site have dis­covered tools, charred re­mains of camp­fires, and even an­im­al bones dat­ing back 800,000 years to the Stone Age, LiveSci­ence re­ports. In oth­er words, our dip­lo­mat­ic mis­sion in Lon­don is go­ing to sit on top of a cave­man camp­ground.

“Pre­his­tor­ic sites in Lon­don are ex­tremely rare and to have such a vast ho­ri­zon pre­served is quite sig­ni­fic­ant,” Kasia Ol­chow­ska, a seni­or ar­chae­olo­gist at the Mu­seum of Lon­don Ar­chae­ology, tells Megan Gan­non.

Eng­land’s streets have a knack for hid­ing his­tory for ri­dicu­lously long peri­ods of time. In 2012, ar­chae­olo­gists dis­covered the skel­et­on of King Richard III, who ruled Eng­land dur­ing the 15th cen­tury, be­neath the as­phalt of a park­ing lot.

In 2008, the State De­part­ment bought a new site for the U.S. Em­bassy in the Nine Elms area of Wandsworth in Lon­don, on the south side of the Thames River. It then launched a con­test to find a design firm to build the dip­lo­mat­ic hub. The em­bassy’s ex­ist­ing loc­a­tion, a 1950s-era struc­ture in cent­ral Lon­don, was “too small, out­dated, and hard to de­fend from se­cur­ity threats,” said Louis Sus­man, then the U.S. am­bas­sad­or to Bri­tain.

Kier­anTim­ber­lake won the com­pet­i­tion in Feb­ru­ary 2010. The em­bassy, slated for com­ple­tion in 2017, will be a massive, $1 bil­lion glass cube moun­ted on a colon­nade, with a pond and path­ways for the pub­lic (see a photo here). With­in the beau­ti­ful, shim­mer­ing design are some pretty in­tense se­cur­ity meas­ures: The glass ex­ter­i­or is bomb-res­ist­ant, and the pond is es­sen­tially a moat.

Back when the State De­part­ment was con­sid­er­ing designs, more than two years be­fore an at­tack in Benghazi, Libya, would kill four Amer­ic­an dip­lo­mats and ex­pose pre­vent­able se­cur­ity is­sues, em­bassy safety was a big con­cern. The Wash­ing­ton Post‘s Philip Ken­nicott wrote in 2010 about the de­part­ment’s com­pet­i­tion:

It might “¦ re­flect the State De­part­ment’s de­sire for fresh and deep­er think­ing about how to design aes­thet­ic­ally pleas­ing but se­cure fa­cil­it­ies. In re­cent years, the gov­ern­ment has re­lied on stand­ard em­bassy designs as it worked to rap­idly re­place or up­grade over­seas fa­cil­it­ies in the nervous post-2001 en­vir­on­ment. Many of those were cri­ti­cized for be­ing fort­ress­like, for­bid­ding, and isol­ated from their sur­round­ings and the people they serve.

In a post-Benghazi word, “fort­ress­like, for­bid­ding, and isol­ated” prob­ably sounds just about right, even in a much friend­li­er na­tion.

What We're Following See More »
UTAH REPUBLICAN
Former Sen. Bob Bennett Dies at 82
38 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

Former Utah Republican Sen. Bob Bennett died of pancreatic cancer on Wednesday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Bennett was defeated in a primary in 2010 by Tea Party–backed Mike Lee.

Source:
GOOGLE SEARCHES SPIKE
Libertarians Getting a Second Look?
7 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
VEEPSTAKES
Trump Floats Gingrich, Kasich as Running Mates
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

Newt Gringrich is actively positioning himself as a possible VP nominee for Donald Trump, according to National Review. After a New York Times piece mentioned him as a possible running mate, he said, "It is an honor to be mentioned. We need a new Contract with America to outline a 100-day plan to take back Washington from the lobbyists, bureaucrats, unions, and leftists. After helping in 1980 with Reagan and 1995 as speaker I know we have to move boldly and decisively before the election results wear off and the establishment starts fighting us. That is my focus." Meanwhile, Trump told CNN he'd be "interested in vetting" John Kasich as well.

NO MORE CUTS
House Dems Push on Puerto Rico, Citing Zika
9 hours ago
THE LATEST

"House Democrats are stepping up pressure on Republicans to advance legislation addressing Puerto Rico’s worsening debt crisis by issuing a report arguing that austerity cuts can’t be sustained and have made the island more vulnerable to the mosquito-borne Zika virus." Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee released a report yesterday that argued "further sharp reductions in government spending can’t be a part of a legislative solution"—especially with a rainy season boosting the mosquito population and stressing an island health system already struggling to deal with the Zika virus.

Source:
USING LOCAL CELLS
Clapper: ISIS Can Stage Attacks in U.S.
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"ISIS has the capability to stage a Paris-style attack in the U.S. using local cells to strike in multiple locations and inflict dozens of casualties, according to the Obama administration's top U.S. intelligence official." Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told CNN's Peter Bergen that such a scenario is "something we worry about a lot in the United States, that they could conjure up a raid like they did in Paris or Brussels."

Source:
×