Page last updated at 13:20 GMT, Thursday, 22 October 2009 14:20 UK

US Embassy listed for its facade

US Embassy in Grosvenor Square
The embassy stood out for its concrete facade design

The US embassy building in central London has been granted Grade II listed status for its "dynamic facade".

The concrete building in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, which is one of the early works of modernist architect Eero Saarinen, cannot be altered in design.

It has been witness to historic events with current architecture minister Margaret Hodge revealing she protested against the Vietnam War there in 1968.

The embassy plans to sell the building and move to a site in south London.

The new site covers five acres on the south side of Nine Elms Lane in Wandsworth, and the building will be up to 20 storeys high.

Announcing the listed status, Mrs Hodge said: "Firstly, it's a really important piece of modernist architecture that fits comfortably in its surroundings and illustrates a great architect at the top of his game.

1968 protests outside the US embassy
Minister Margaret Hodge was among the anti-war protesters in 1968

"And secondly, to mark the special place it holds in our national life and recent history, representing not just the 'special relationship' between ourselves and the US, but also the focus it once had as a target for protest.

"I was one of the thousands who chanted and protested there against the Vietnam War in 1968, and the irony of my making this decision today is not lost on me."

The four-storey building, topped with a golden eagle, sits in one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods of London and was built between 1955 and 1957.

It was part of the US's post-war embassy-building programme in Europe just as the Cold War began.

The concrete structure was the first purpose-built US embassy in Europe, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said.

The building's "dynamic facades, well-detailed stonework and consistency of detail and the innovative application of the exposed concrete diagrid" led to its protected status, the DCMS added.

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