The Foreign and Commonwealth Office building, on King Charles Street, London, was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott. It has served as the main Foreign Office building since its completion in 1868. Construction began in 1861, 79 years after the first Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was appointed.
Scott won a competition to design the building. Scott’s appointment was an odd one, in that his design did not come first. The winner was disregarded by Hall because the result was not binding. Scott was brought in to mop up the pieces.
The building’s architecture is in the Italianate style. Scott originally designed the building in the Gothic Revival style, which he saw as the purest architectural style at the time. Then Prime Minister Lord Palmerston did not like it and insisted on a classical style. Scott had to redesign the building from scratch. He did just that, of course, but used his Gothic design as the basis for his grandest work of all – the Midland Hotel.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is a classical building with rich decoration and grand carvings. For the exterior, sculptors Henry Hugh Armstead and John Birnie Philip were enlisted to produce figures which sit in niches across several storeys. To the front, columns set above the doorway create a royal entrance.
The building is of national interest and is considered one of Scott’s finest works. It has survived over 150 years and was saved in the 60s from demolition. It is now designated as a Grade 1 Listed Building, protected under UK law.