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Anger over plans to remove fountains from Hopkins’ Portcullis House

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Hopkins, the architect behind the landmark Portcullis House, and heritage campaigners have hit out at plans to remove the building’s original water features

SAVE Britain’s Heritage has made an urgent application to spot-list the entire 2001 block, claiming the atrium fountains were ‘integral’ to the design of ‘one of the best used and most popular gathering places on the Parliamentary estate’.

According to Hopkins, the courtyard structures also formed part of the original fire strategy, as agreed with the Home Office Fire Inspectorate.

Yet Parliamentary officials insist the fountains were never part of the original plans and admitted they had not consulted Hopkins over the latest proposals, which are intended to increase capacity in the space.

SAVE’s criticism comes ‘hot on the heels’ of its opposition to contentious plans to demolish all but the façade of nearby Richmond House. The group is particularly concerned that no public consultation had been carried out on the proposals.

An angry Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE Britain’s Heritage said: ‘Parliamentary authorities are about to vandalise the main interior one the finest and best-known modern public buildings in London.’

Mike Taylor, principal, Hopkins Architects, added: ’The water features were very definitely integral to the final design, not just for the visual amenity and acoustic background noise, but also as a critical part of the fire strategy which effectively “neutralised” that part of the space in terms of potential fire load.

’The fact they didn’t appear on some early concept images is irrelevant and it is a spurious argument to imply they were not part of our design and neither were they retrofitted as the letter [from Parliament] might be suggesting.’

Parliamentary officials claim that demand for space within Portcullis House has increased markedly over the past two years and pressure would continue to grow on the building as work begins on the BDP-led £1.6 millon Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster.

It is understood that, although the water features will be taken out, the stonework will be stored so they could potentially be reinstalled in the future. 

A spokesperson for the House of Commons said: ’Portcullis House is a hugely popular and valued building on the estate used by MPs and staff for dining and as a meeting place.

‘Portcullis House over the past couple of years has become a central point for parliamentary business. In view of the increasing demand we are working to adapt the courtyard to increase its capacity.’

They added: ‘Our obligation to inform the architects of any proposed changes to the building ceased when Portcullis House was 10 years old.’

Officials maintained they would be working with Historic England on the plans.

It is not the first time Historic England has received a request to list Portcullis House and Westminster Tube Station. Earlier this year the heritage watchdog refused an application from The Twentieth Century Society.

A spokesperson said: ’For us to assess a building of such a relatively young age (under 30 years old) it must be both under serious threat of demolition or major alteration and meet the criteria for listing at a high grade – Grade II* or Grade I. Our view was that the threat to the building was insufficient to justify spot-listing.

‘We understand a new threat has emerged since we received the application. We will be assessing it as a matter of urgency and have been in touch with the Parliamentary authorities.’

Two years ago Michael Hopkins said that MPs could use the atrium in Portcullis House as a temporary chamber while the Houses of Parliament are being restored.

Speaking to The Times in 2017, Hopkins said: ‘The House of Commons chamber is very small and it would fit very easily – almost exactly – into half the space of the atrium in Portcullis House and it would continue operating exactly as it has done, but very conveniently you would have the chamber right in the middle.

‘It’s an absolute no-brainer. The only danger is that it would be so convenient they would never want to go back to the old chamber.’

Under the latest plans, which were submitted for planning by AHMM earlier this month, a short-term chamber will instead be re-housed within Richmond House, which will be significantly altered.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • The performance of our dear parliamentarians will deserve an even bigger kicking if they proceed to 'fix' the shoehorning of the Holocaust Memorial Learning Centre into Victoria Tower Gardens to make hay out of the controversy over the Labour Party's anti-semitism.
    Sorry to be cynical.

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