Plans for new US embassy on the banks of the Thames

With a billion dollar budget and a prime site on the banks of the Thames, the plans for the new US embassy in Britain were intended to cement Washington’s “special relationship” with London for decades to come.

But tonight’s long-awaited unveiling of designs by US ambassador Louis Susman for one of the most expensive embassies ever built threatened to be overshadowed by a high-level spat.

The Guardian has learned that the only two British members of the seven-strong design jury “fought to the death” against their American counterparts in a failed bid to block a winning design which they argued was not world class and was unfit to represent the US in Britain. Lord Rogers, the architect of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, and Lord Palumbo, the property developer and art collector, felt so strongly about the inadequacies of the winning design, they submitted a “minority report” setting out their case to the US state department in Washington, which commissioned the building.


Robert Booth