Foreign and Commonwealth Office

On Her Majesty’s spectacular service

Our relationship with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is best expressed in numbers. 4,000 buildings. 279 locations. More than 150 construction projects. And crowned by the Seed Cathedral at the Shanghai World Expo 2010.

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office Project summary

Client

Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Key partners

Heatherwick Studios, Davis Langdon & Seah, AKT II, Gleeds, Forme, Ridge & Partners, HOK, John McAslan & Partners, Ramboll

Services provided

Construction, Construction management, Contracting, Fit out, Consultancy, Project and programme management

Sectors

Public buildings and estates, Arts and culture

Locations

North America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East, North Africa and India, Asia Pacific, UK and Europe

Project timeline

Start date
2005
Status
Live
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Project story

As the FCO’s construction partner, we’ve helped deliver embassies, consulates and residencies around the world in countries ranging from Canada to Pakistan, Thailand to South Africa.

With each new project facing challenges from local market nuances, to exchange rate fluctuation and security constraints, it is testament to our innovative staff that every FCO appointment has been delivered to the same standard, in both quality and safety. The global environment is ever changing, yet the FCO values our support because of our reliability in the face of such flux.

First selected as strategic partner in 2005 and with the the relationship extended ever since, we operate with a core London team, 20 project managers across a number of international locations, and a supply chain that includes architects, construction specialists, quantity surveyors and engineers.

Our first project – the British Embassy in Manila, Philippines – was completed in 2008, on spec and £1m under budget. This set the benchmark for our much deserved reputation for industrious innovation.

Project stats

130+ projects delivered as part of our FCO activity
40,000 daily visitors to the Seed Cathedral during Expo 2010
90% of materials for the Seed Cathedral sourced from within 300km of Shanghai

Points of note

Award-winning pavilion

Looks like a dandelion. Sways like one too. The 20m high Seed Cathedral was the UK’s award winning pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. With a timber frame adorned with 60,000 transparent acrylic rods, the temporary structure contained seeds from the Kew Millennium Seed Bank’s partners in China.

To minimise the structure’s impact on the environment, 90% of the pavilion’s materials were sourced from within 300km of Shanghai.

The Seed Cathedral attracted over eight million visitors and duly scooped the Best Designed Pavilion award and RIBA Lubetkin Prize in 2010.

Closer to home

Having demonstrated our expertise abroad, we also delivered a prestigious and complex refurbishment of the FCO’s Grade I-listed home in London’s Whitehall. Structurally altering one of the UK’s greatest architectural and historic buildings to provide an open and modern working environment was a massive challenge, but one we met. We converted the 60,000 sq m of space, sequencing the work to minimise disruption to the 1,000 FCO staff who occupied parts of the building during the work.

Going global

UK embassies across the world’s continents have benefited from secure yet accessible new buildings, thanks to our ongoing relationship with the FCO. Since 2005, these have included embassies in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Poland and India. Our experts have worked in each country with local subcontractors to ensure site operatives had the necessary skillsets to deliver quality construction.

“The Seed Cathedral is a golden opportunity to highlight our contribution to dealing with global challenges such as sustainable development and climate change.”

“The memory of the evanescent design [of the Seed Cathedral] will stay with when other things fade.”