SPOTLIGHT ON: Mr Keiji Makino


This month, we interviewed Mr Keiji Makino, Councillor and Head of Building and Property Management and found out some surprising things about our Embassy.


1. When were you first in the UK?


In 1976. I came to study town and architectural conservation at the University of York, which was the only place that offered the course at the time. I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shortly afterwards.


2. You managed the Embassy's move from Grosvenor St to Piccadilly around 20 years ago. Why did that move take place and what did you find were the biggest challenges?


That building was too small. It did not meet the health & safety standards or security standards that were in place in Japan at the time. Also, we were split over three different locations; the information section for example, was not in Grosvenor St. After some searching, eventually we found this current building. It had been empty for some time and needed lots of attention. The other challenges we faced were the layout - how to make this building meet the Embassy's needs, meeting the deadlines we had for moving, and the actual removal work itself. Everyone had their job to do. During the move, the lifts in this building were out of order so we couldn't take any furniture upstairs; we had to cram it into the basement. Also we had to be very careful moving from a security point of view.


3. You helped design the Ambassador's residence. As it is owned by the Crown, are there any restrictions concerning what you can and can't do?


I designed parts of it, particularly the extension in the basement. I know a lot about William Morris. I studied him and the arts and crafts movement at the turn of the century and the carpet, wall coverings and furniture in the basement are all close to that style.


The residence was built in 1854 and it has been renovated from time to time over the ensuing years. The renovation we undertook was a huge operation. We kept only the structures and repaired the rest much to the original style. When renovating, we found newspapers in the gap between the sash window and the brickwork which had been put there for insulation. Those newspapers were from exactly 100 years prior to our renovation - it was quite a discovery!


It's owned by the Crown Estate and is also a grade II listed building so there are many restrictions - even down to the exact colour of the paint on the exterior walls! For any changes we have to submit applications to both Kensington and Chelsea Council and the Crown Estate. When they say yes, we start making proper drawings.


4. Can you tell us a little about the architectural style of the Embassy building?


The architectural style is Italian Renaissance Revival, which you can see by the little arches in the exterior and the granite pillars. The building was made using Norwegian White Marble, Limestone and Portland Stone.

5. What do you know about the history of the building?


The building was constructed in 1892 by the architect Sir Robert W. Edis. It was originally used as a gentlemen's club, called the Junior Constitutional Club. In fact, you can still see the letters 'JCC' in some of the plasterwork. Back then, the ground floor, second and fourth floors had some splendid public areas such as the morning room, dining room and billiard room. These rooms are now used as the ballroom, meeting rooms, and offices. On floors six to eight, there were 60 or 70 single bedrooms that would have been used by club members. Interestingly, gentlemen's clubs such as this paved the way for modern hotel design with large multi-purpose rooms on the lower levels and bedrooms higher up.

During the Second World War, the building was employed as an Allied Forces Command Centre. Then, until the early '80s it was used as the headquarters of the International Maritime Organisation.


Plasterwork bearing the initials 'JCC'



6. What do you like to do when you're not working here?


I have a lot of hobbies. I find painting and pottery help me let off steam. My house is full of pots and paintings!
I'm also concentrating on writing a book, but I can't tell you anything about that yet - it's confidential!

The Morning Room

The Dining Room

The Entrance