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British firms barred from US Embassy competition

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US government admits ‘foreign’ firms will not be eligible to design the new embassy in London

British architects have been barred from competing to design the new US Embassy in London due to security reasons.

The American government has confirmed that no foreign firm will be eligible to apply for the £275 million project to build the new home for the US consulate at Nine Elms in Wandsworth.

According to tender documents recently issued by the US administration, the ‘lead designer’ must be based in America and have the necessary security clearance.

The US Embassy, which will move out of its Eero Saarinen-designed building in Grosvenor Square, is not bound by EU procurement rules.

A disappointed Jeremy Estop of MJP Architects, which designed the British Embassy in Bangkok, said Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office(FCO) had ‘managed to deal with security issues’ despite using architects from around the world.

He said: ‘The FCO is currently employing American architects for new British Embassies in Jakarta [HOK Architects] and Rabat [RTKL Architects].

‘If security is the reason, then logically this would mean the [State Department] intends to fly in a whole US construction work force, which cannot be practical.’

However, a spokesman for the US Embassy insisted there were still opportunities for UK firms: ‘It is anticipated and encouraged that the winning design team could incorporate UK and other members with international expertise.

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