US-based architecture firm Gensler has provided a first look inside its radical concept for a temporary Houses of Parliament on the River Thames in London.
The idea has been “floated” as a solution to enable a full decant of the Palace of Westminster to allow long overdue refurbishment works to proceed.
Gensler says the internal architecture mirrors familiar features from the Palace of Westminster and is inspired by the magnificent hammer-beam roof of Westminster Hall.
The two iconic chambers of the House of Commons and House of Lords will be replicated to the same dimensions to ensure familiarity with the aim of reducing disruption to MPs and Peers.
The Royal Gallery and Central Lobby, which play an important role in parliamentary traditions including state receptions and ceremonies, will also be reproduced in the temporary structure.
Built on a series of steel platforms, the building will be a dramatic high tech wooden framed structure covering 8,600 sq m.
A light trough will run around the base of the chambers to enable a glow that will illuminate the building at night and the space between the outer bubble and inner box, known as the ‘Inner Deck’, will be filled with plants. Skylights – another feature of the Palace of Westminster – will ensure the chambers are bathed in daylight whilst maintaining the privacy and safety of members.
Philippe Paré, design principal at Gensler, said: “It is important that the design is true to the iconic interiors that people are so familiar with to ensure our concept is still recognisable as Parliament, but we wanted to give it a modern twist.
“Building a new structure from the ground up creates an opportunity to incorporate workplace design principles that are proven to improve productivity, well-being and collaboration. We have tried to maximise access to natural light, provided areas of planting to increase oxygenation and leverage the ‘Inner Deck’ as place where impromptu interaction and dialogue can occur.
“We are conscious that any solution enabling a parliamentary decant will use public funds, so we have focused on restraint and efficiency.
“We have also been sensitive to the Palace of Westminster, so that our solution continues to be recognisable as Parliament and to ensure the space is easy for MPs and Peers to adapt to and use. The simplicity of the interiors also gives the structure flexibility, which will be important for legacy use.”
Ian Mulcahey, managing director at Gensler, said: “In an uncertain world, The Houses of Parliament have proved to be an enduring symbol of stability and democracy. Their iconic status at the heart of Government is recognised the world over and by the many thousands of visitors who come to visit a year.
“This concept powerfully expresses the necessity for the continuity of Government in this historic location in Westminster. The pressing need to refurbish the Palace of Westminster provides a unique opportunity for the UK to demonstrate its resilience and celebrate its design creativity.”
Gensler unveiled its concept for temporary Houses of Parliament earlier this month, saying it would save the British taxpayer more than £1.8 billion, and allow the urgent repair works to proceed.
Once the refurbishment of the Palace is complete, the modular structure could be relocated and adapted to provide a permanent legacy, such as a Museum for Democracy or alternatively a new parliament for an emerging overseas democracy.