Proposals being drawn up by AHMM to build a temporary House of Commons chamber in a listed government building have sparked a backlash from conservationists
The plan is being developed to relocate MPs to a temporary debating chamber in the 1980s Grade II-listed Richmond House on Whitehall while the Palace of Westminster undergoes a £7 billion refurbishment.
Designs are at an early stage but it is understood the plans could involve the demolition of the majority of Richmond House, leaving its façade intact.
The plans have angered heritage campaigners, who say the ‘superb’ building – designed by William Whitfield and his partner Andrew Lockwood and completed in 1986, and until recently occupied by the Department of Health – should not be demolished for the creation of a temporary chamber.
SAVE Britain’s Heritage has pointed to plans drawn up by Hopkins Architects, which show how the existing House of Commons chamber could be accommodated within the large atrium of Portcullis House, the office building for MPs opposite Big Ben (pictured below).
In December 2017, Michael Hopkins said using Portcullis House for the temporary chamber was an ‘absolute no-brainer’ as it would fit almost exactly into the space.
Henrietta Billings, Director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, says: The Hopkins drawings show that that trashing our modern architectural heritage to make way for a temporary chamber does not have to be inevitable.
’The potential environmental and cost savings from adapting Portcullis House, and re-opening Richmond House for office space rather than almost wholesale demolition and rebuilding are huge – surely it is in all of our interests that these options are fully explored.’
Marcus Binney, executive president, added: ’William Whitfield is one of the most distinguished architects of modern times, producing beautiful, original and thoughtful buildings. He is sensitive to context, working beside cathedrals including St Paul’s and Canterbury.
’We urge MPs to look seriously at the Hopkins alternative in the interests of avoiding the destruction of Sir William Whitfield’s superb building.’
Andrew Lockwood, who designed the building with his partner William Whitfield, said it was for other people to decide whether the building was worth fighting for.
He told the AJ: ‘It was a good building when it was designed, when it solved the problem it was required to. The question is, have things changed ? Is the requirement to keep the Houses of Parliament working so great that the back of this building is a sacrifice worth making?
You have no right to expect your buildings to outlive you
‘It’s difficult to stamp your foot as an architect and say you can’t demolish this building. An awful lot of our buildings have been altered, but it is because the user requirements have changed. You have no right to expect your buildings to outlive you.’
A spokesperson for Parliament said: ’In January 2018 the House of Commons Commission endorsed making best use of the Richmond House site, but design work is at an early stage and no firm decisions have been made.
‘As the designs develop, members will decide how the building and facilities should be used or adapted after a return to the Palace of Westminster, including the chamber. The building’s design will be in line with those decisions.’
AHMM declined to comment.
Proposals by Hopkins Architects for relocating the MPs chamber to Portcullis House