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One local resident, a Russian countess named Anca Vidaeff, staged a hunger strike, while the neighborhood association took out two-page advertisements in the Washington Post and the Times of London to protest against the embassy’s presence.Regardless, a million security upgrade in 2007 saw the building surrounded with a plethora of raised concrete flower beds, six-foot-high blast walls, guard shacks, and traffic-blocking structures, transforming genteel Grosvenor Square into a militarized scene worthy of Baghdad.
It is a traditional British ha-ha, originally used to keep animals off the lawns of country houses, updated for 21st-century security needs.
To the south, the site is edged with another seating wall—benches affixed to a thick slab of truck-impeding concrete—behind which the landscape rises in a defensive berm, a.k.a.
a “meadow” with the “sense of expansion characteristic of the rolling American plains.” As the cross section in the planning application shows, a third of the way along this mound the ground plummets into a steep ditch.
The design, the firm explained, was inspired by European castles—not in having 20-foot-thick stone walls and chutes for showering boiling oil down on the enemy, but in that the building’s defensive strategy would be hidden in the landscape.
In principle, the scheme isn’t too far from a medieval motte and bailey.