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RIBA - and Parliament - celebrate 175th anniversaries

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Sunand Prasad and Ruth Reed join parlimentarians and schoolchildren at an exhibition in Westminster Hall

‘We have history standing all around us but you have the future over there,’ said Barbara Follett – Minister for Culture and Tourism - pointing to a display at the RIBA 175 Schools Competition award ceremony in Westminster Hall.

The competition – which marked the RIBA’s 175th anniversary - invited students aged 14 to 19 from 124 schools to design a Parliament fit for the twenty-first century.

Entries included several dome-like structures and proposals to relocate parliament outside of the capital.

The Trinity Catholic School team in Aspley chose a site they called Sherwood Forest. ‘It’s the sort of thing that would be good to have because we don’t have many buildings like this in Nottingham,’ said a student.

The Joseph Swan School team in Gateshead decided to move parliament closer to the Angel of the North.

The St Robert of Newminster Catholic School & Sixth Form College team in Washington proposed turning the Houses of Parliament into a hotel.

‘[Westminster Palace] isn’t beautiful and it isn’t functional for a modern-day legislature,’ said Follett. ‘I would move it to Leeds. Why? Because it is in the centre, equidistant to the edges.’

The competition also marked the 175th anniversary of the completion of the current Parliament building. The competition-winning design by architect Sir Charles Barry replaced an earlier structure that was largely destroyed by fire in 1834.

RIBA President Sunand Prasad described the ‘beautiful fusion’ caused by the coincidental timing of events.

The Lord Speaker, Helene Hayman, said the afternoon’s stormy weather – which caused flooding at Victoria and Westminster stations - prompted ‘inspiration to chose one design before we […] have a new disaster.’

The winning design was a teardrop shaped structure by students from Eastbourne College. Judges were impressed by the design’s consideration of sustainability issues.

The competition was an opportunity for ‘reaching out to and involving young people [with] things which quintessentially matter to this country,’ said Prasad.

‘We have an enormous mountain to climb in Parliament to inspire young people and the public that there is a [connection] between them and Parliament,’ said the Lord Speaker.

Richard Younger-Ross the Liberal Democrat Shadow Spokesperson for Heritage added: ‘I hope that RIBA will use this to go out and engage with the schools and the community and also to go out and engage with the politicians and the legislature in a similar way.’

‘They are encouraging people to get involved in one of the most exciting professions even if it is hard work and under rewarded,’ said Younger Ross.

‘And hostage to economic fortune,’ chimed Ruth Reed – RIBA President Elect.

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