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New Iran Embassy In London Stirs Controversy

Nov 12, 2010

LONDON ––Iran’s planned new post-modern embassy is stirring debate here, both for its design and for its location in an historic preservation area.

Descriptions and artists’ renditions show a six-story building cantilevered above and surrounding a smaller street corner structure that would be painted bright yellow.

Despite reports months ago on web sites, local authorities had not released details or drawings to community leaders. But some details were released after recent media reports.

London is host to a number of post-modern buildings, many of them once or still controversial, including the now iconic “pickle” office tower. But the Iranian embassy is to be built in the Queens Gate Conservation Area, five yards from historic St. Augustine’s Church, stirring protests.

The local council promises “further public consultation” after “revised drawings” are provided by Iran.

Those with long memories will recall that Eero Saarinen’s design for the U.S. embassy in London’s historic Grosvenor Square was controversial at the time it was built over five decades ago. Now, the American embassy is scheduled relocate to a new, larger building on the other side of the Thames, and the current embassy site will be sold.

Perhaps the Iranian government could simply buy the existing U.S. embassy.


Embassy commissions provide some of the best opportunities for the design community to push the boundaries of contemporary thought. Other modern commissions in urban settings such as the Pompidou Center in Paris have sparked initial anger and later embracing acceptance. London is especially open to these cutting edge commissions. It is the context of "neighborhood" that raises THIS to controversy status, but a review of the helicopter view massing reveals the embassy to be sensitive and especially open at it's corner compared to other embassies.

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