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Thursday, 21 September, 2000, 02:00 GMT 03:00 UK
HQ that's anything but a secret
Mi6 HQ, Vauxhall, London
One critic said the HQ was influenced by "Mayan temples"
Thanks to its distinctive headquarters, Britain's overseas-focused secret intelligence service is anything but a secret.

The towering headquarters of MI6 in Vauxhall, south London, ranks as one of the capital's best-known buildings.

Open-top tourist buses regularly pass by and admirers can walk its perimeter, albeit in the glare of numerous closed-circuit television cameras.

To many around the world the building is best known for its part in the last James Bond film, The World is Not Enough, when, ironically part of it was blown up by a bomb smuggled in by a terrorist.

James Bond
The building was attacked by terrorists in the last James Bond film
Military Intelligence, section six, to give the service its full title, moved to the building in 1994, from its former headquarters near the Houses of Parliament.

The high-profile move came at a time when Britain's secret services were trying to shed their covert image in a spirit of post-Cold War openness.

Designed by acclaimed architect Terry Farrell, who also designed Charing Cross station and the TV-am building in Camden, the complex is distinctive for its honey-coloured concrete and green windows.

It sits at the edge of one of Britain's busiest traffic junction, Vauxhall Cross, where six major routes meet.

Costs row

The building attracted strong criticism from MPs after the cost of construction and fitting out over-ran original estimates and finally came out at hundreds of millions of pounds.

It is a modern-day fortress, boasting bomb and bulletproof walls and windows and, allegedly, a wire mesh to prevent electromagnetic information passing in and out.

Much of the complex is below street-level to protect the most sensitive areas from terrorist attack.

Although its internal layout is covered by the Official Secrets Act, two years ago a team of investigative journalists claimed plans were available to the public at Lambeth Council offices.

The blueprints showed "the internal layout of the ground floor with security barriers, guard kiosk, service entrance and a vehicle-inspection canopy," claimed The Sunday Times.

"Details of roof-level satellite dishes, used to communicate with MI6 stations and agents abroad, are also included."

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