Tuesday, December 7, 2010

SIS Building

The SIS Building, also commonly known as the MI6 Building, is the headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence Service (otherwise known as "MI6"). It is known within the intelligence community as Legoland and also as "Babylon-on-Thames" due to its resemblance to an ancient Babylonian ziggurat. It is located at 85, Albert Embankment in the south western part of central London, on the bank of the River Thames beside Vauxhall Bridge.
View towards Westminster from Vauxhall Bridge
Designed by Terry Farrell and built by John Laing, the developer Regalian Properties approached the government in 1987 to assess their interest in the proposed building. In July 1988 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher approved the purchase of the new building for the SIS. The government proposed to pay for the building outright in order to maintain secrecy over the intended use of the site — at this time the existence of MI6 was not officially acknowledged.

The building's design was reviewed to incorporate the necessary protection for Britain's foreign intelligence-gathering agency. While the details and cost of construction have been released, approximately ten years after the original National Audit Office (NAO) report was written, some of the service's special requirements remain classified. The NAO report Thames House and Vauxhall Cross omits certain details, describing the cost and problems of certain modifications but not their nature. 

Looking at that curtainwall, it looks like blast level glazing to me.  Massive mullions and no big lites.  I suspect that, similar to the GSA blast criteria, the level of strength of the protective building envelope will never be disclosed.   The building in fact did survive a rocket attack in September of 2000 with only superficial damage.  More to follow.

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