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Astragal: Could Woolwich ferries provide temporary Houses of Parliament?

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Will the knighthood ever come?Dixon Jones’s accidental piazza

A key debate on whether MPs should have to vacate the Houses of Parliament (the cheaper, quicker option) or have the builders work around them (the longer and more expensive proposal) has been unexpectedly postponed.

The decision to defer the meeting –  again delaying any progress on the much-needed BDP-masterminded job – was blamed on the debate falling on a Thursday.

Apparently, MPs whose constituencies ‘are a long distance away tend to return on Thursdays and parliamentary attendance can, consequently, be low’. 

Perhaps the government could address this problem by relocating Parliament to a more geographically central site! 

The delay also prompted the latest in a series of avant-garde alternatives to provisionally house the homeless MPs elsewhere should the full oust option be adopted.

Readers may remember Studio Egret West’s plans to temporarily relocate Parliament to Bristol; or indeed Gensler’s Project Poseidon – a ‘radical concept’ for a £160 million modular structure floating on the Thames at Westminster next to the existing building. 

Now Gensler’s idea has been taken a step further by Studio Octopi, marine engineer Beckett Rankine and structural engineer Expedition.

They propose stripping back and reusing the three soon-to-be decommissioned Woolwich ferries as temporary chambers for both houses (pictured below).

What’s more they reckon the HMS Parliament scheme, which would be moored in the river alongside the Palace of Westminster, could be delivered for £50 million. Water bargain!

Hmsparliament studiooctopi final step5 copy


Will the knighthood ever come? 

So 2018 brought a knighthood for the bloke with an earring who narrated Thomas the Tank Engine and sung Yellow Submarine. Yet the only mention of the word ‘architecture’ in the New Year’s Honours was something to do with the taxman.

HMRC head of ‘infrastructure architecture’ James Boyle scooped an OBE for services to taxpayers and government modernisation (those final two words an oxymoron, surely?), while Ringo Starr became Sir Richard Starkey for services to music (have they heard Octopus’s Garden?)

It should also be noted that City of London Corporation chief planning officer and development director Annie Hampson was awarded an OBE for services to planning in the capital. Historic England deputy director Deborah Lamb and Churches Conservation Trust member Edward Mortimer Harley were among other built environment luminaries to be recognised.

Very well done all. But why was there not a single sniff of recognition for the people who sit down with a talented hand and a visionary mind and create the buildings in which we spend our lives?

The last architect to be knighted, after a worryingly barren half decade, was David Adjaye at the start of 2017. The previous honour of the same rank was bestowed on Dame Zaha Hadid in 2012. 

Time for more recognition of a great profession from the honours committees, we say. Or as Ringo put it: Don’t Pass Me By.

Dixon Jones’s accidental piazza

Dixon jones knightsbridge

Dixon jones knightsbridge

Central London has temporarily acquired a vast new space thanks to Dixon Jones’s 55-91 Knightsbridge project.

The scheme, scheduled to complete in two years’ time, redevelops the century-old building on the site by WD Caroe to create a mixed-use building with residential apartments.  

While the frontage – believed to be London’s longest retained façade at 121m – is being repaired, the poorer-quality rear of the building will be replaced by Dixon Jones’s new structure. 

Following demolition work, an interesting trapezoidal square has emerged (pictured), which practice founder Ed Jones likens to the Piazza di Spagna in Rome.

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