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SIS Building

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MI6 under attack (Skyfall)

MI6 comes under attack, as M (Judi Dench) watches from a distance. From Skyfall (2012).

The SIS Building or MI6 Building at Vauxhall Cross houses the real-world headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, MI6). It is located at 85 Albert Embankment in Vauxhall, a south western part of central London, United Kingdom, on the bank of the River Thames beside Vauxhall Bridge. Vauxhall Cross was featured in several James Bond films, including The World Is Not Enough (1999), Die Another Day (2002), Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015).

Real-world background

Prior to its construction in 1995, MI6 had previously been based at Century House, a 22-storey office block on Westminster Bridge Road, Lambeth, near Waterloo Station.[1] Designed by Terry Farrell, the developer Regalian Properties plc approached the Government in 1987 to see if they had any interest in the proposed building. At the same time MI5 was seeking alternative accommodation and collocation of the two services was studied. In the end this proposal was abandoned due to the lack of buildings of adequate size (existing or proposed) and the security considerations of providing a single target for attacks. In July 1988 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher approved the purchase of the new building for the SIS. At this stage the government proposed to pay for the building outright in order to maintain secrecy over the intended use of the site. It is important to note that at this time the existence of MI6 was not officially acknowledged.

The building design was reviewed to incorporate the necessary protection for Britain's foreign intelligence gathering agency. The numerous layers over which the building is laid out create 60 separate roof areas.[2] 25 different types of glass were used in the building, with 12,000 m2 of glass and aluminium used in the building's construction.[2] The windows in the SIS building are triple glazed for security purposes. Due to the sensitive nature of MI6's work, large parts of the building are below street level, with numerous underground corridors serving the building.[3] Amenities for staff include a sports hall, gymnasium, aerobics studio, and a squash court.[4] The building also features two moat for protection.[5] The building was completed in April 1994 and officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II accompanied by Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, in July of that year.[6] While the details and cost of construction have been released, about ten years after the original National Audit Office report was written, some of the service's special requirements remain classified.

James Bond

Vauxhall Cross has featured in several recent James Bond films. The building was depicted as having been attacked in the Bond films The World Is Not Enough (1999), and Skyfall (2012).[7][8] For The World Is Not Enough a 50-foot-high (15-metre) model of the building was constructed at Pinewood Studios.[2] A special première of The World Is Not Enough was held at Vauxhall Cross for MI6 staff, who cheered when their headquarters was destroyed in the film.[9] Filming for the twenty-fourth Bond film, Spectre, took place on the Thames near Vauxhall Cross in May 2015.[10] The building is portrayed as a ruin in this movie, following the Cyber-attack by Raoul Silva in the events of Skyfall and is currently awaiting controlled demolition using explosives. It also plays a major role in the climax of the film.

Images

References

  1. Philip Johnston. "The very public face of the secret service", The Daily Telegraph, 22 September 2000. Retrieved on 9 November 2014. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Buildings – SIS (MI6). SIS. Retrieved on 26 December 2013.
  3. Mark Henderson. "Heavy security at £75m building." The Times, London, 21 September 2000
  4. Francis Wheen. "MI6's big secret: they're useless.", The Guardian, 3 September, pg. 1
  5. MI6 building 'like a fortress'. CNN (21 September 2000). Retrieved on 16 November 2015.
  6. "Queen visits Mi6.", The Times, London, 15 July 1994, pg 2
  7. Philip French. "James'll fix it... as usual", The Guardian, 28 November 1999. Retrieved on 26 December 2013. 
  8. Philip French. "Skyfall – review", The Guardian, 28 October 2012. Retrieved on 26 December 2013. 
  9. Corera, Gordon (2012). MI6: Life and Death in the British Secret Service. London: Phoenix, p.322. ISBN 978-0-753828-335. 
  10. "James Bond fans see filming of Spectre on River Thames in London", BBC News Online, 18 May 2015. Retrieved on 20 May 2015. 

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