While it may not be on the list of top sightseeing attractions for most visitors to London, James Bond fans with some time on their hands may want to visit the MI6 headquarters at Vauxhall Cross, which has appeared in several of the recent films, including the Thames boat chase in The World Is Not Enough.
The scale and design of the building is perhaps a little surprising for a government department that has traditionally operated under such a tight veil of secrecy; while it can trace its roots back to 1909 as the Secret Service Bureau, MI6 was only officially recognised in 1994, although it should be noted that it is officially called the Secret Intelligent Service (SIS).
The Vauxhall Cross location has been in use since 1995, with headquarters previously at Century House in Lambeth. Designed by Terry Farrell and constructed by John Laing, the National Audit Office put the cost at £135 million for the basic structure and an additional £13 million to adapt it to the special requirements of the service. These include additional security, protection against bomb blasts and countermeasures against electronic eavesdropping, as well as a tunnel leading under the Thames to Whitehall.
In the year 2000, the unthinkable happened and the building was hit with an RPG 22 anti tank missile. Hitting the eighth floor damage was superficial damage and later attributed to an Irish Republican group.