U.S. Embassy in London blasted by Trump is a ‘fortress’ with moat
Despite it being described as a diplomatic “fortress” and boasting a moat, President Trump thinks that the shiny new U.S. Embassy in London is rubbish.
The commander-in-chief blasted the process that brought the building to be on the River Thames, saying in a tweet that its $1 billion price tag and new neighborhood are the reason he is not heading to the UK for a long-planned visit.
“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.
Many suspected that the real reason behind Trump’s visit cancellation was the widespread opposition he would face in Britain, where leaders such as London Mayor Sadiq Khan have responded to some of his more outrageous Twitter moments. Sadiq responded to the President’s reposting of anti-Muslim videos from a far-right UK group by saying the invitation should be rescinded.
U.S. operations in London have been based in the Big Smoke’s tony Mayfair neighborhood for more than 200 years, and have been headquartered at the modernist complex designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen since the 1950s.
A ballooning staff meant that 1,000 people were working in a space designed for hundreds less, and concerns that the structure had terrorism risks started the process to seek a bigger, more secure space.
Despite Trump’s tweet blaming Obama, the decision to move and choice of new location was actually made during the Bush administration.
President Trump was expected to face large-scale protests if he visited Prime Minister Theresa May in London.
The new embassy, in a former industrial area being rapidly redeveloped, has drawn the most attention for having a moat, said to be the first constructed in the British capital since the Middle Ages.
State Department releases of the new glass cube have also praised its energy self-sufficiency and miniscule carbon footprint.
But Trump’s anger at the embassy allows him to deflect attention to the controversy that the move has faced for years.
It was not immediately clear what Trump found so “off” about the new location that he could not even be in the same country as it.
Some in Britain turned up their noses at the idea of having the diplomatic post move from one of the city’s most expensive neighborhoods to an area less connected and less glamorous.
“It’s like moving from New York’s Upper East Side to New Jersey,” former City of London planner Peter Rees told the New York Times in 2015.
Pedestrians walk past a statue of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower outside the old U.S. Embassy in Grosvenor Square.
Different British writers have been divided on the building, which will soon be surrounded by 15 billion pounds ($20 billion) of development including luxury apartments, with some calling it “tasteful” or “stunning” but others labelling it “clunky” compared to the elegance of the previous spot.
Trump’s other appraisal of the real estate, that it was a “bad deal” also glossed over a more complicated reality.
The building is finishing up several months behind schedule, is the world’s most expensive embassy, and was also the subject of criticism from Republicans who questioned the Obama administration spending extra money for more advanced architecture.
Former Jets owner and U.S. Ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson, appointed by Trump, called the new embassy a “bargain” last month, and contrasted it with MetLife Stadium.
The project also received an influx of cash from the sale of the old embassy to a Qatari investment fund in 2009, with the reported price of 500 million pounds, or about $800 million.
It is now being converted into a high-end hotel.
Another building at Grosvenor Square, the U.S. Navy Annex, was sold for 250 million pounds in 2007.