Gensler has become the latest architect to draw up speculative proposals for a new temporary home for the Houses of Parliament while the Palace of Westminster is being refurbished
The practice said Project Poseidon, its ‘radical concept’ for a floating £160 million modular structure next to the existing landmark, would ’reduce the cost and minimise the disruption’ of parliament’s proposed £4 billion revamp, which will require MPs to leave the buildings for six years.
Earlier this year Studio Egret West came up with its own ideas for a new, short-term home on the site of a former Royal Mail sorting office next to Temple Meads Station in Bristol (see AJ 08.04.16).
And, building on his Bartlett thesis, architect Kieran Thomas Wardle, also recently revealed a vision for a ‘deconstructed’ notion of a Parliament building in East Tilbury, Essex, which he has called the Palace of Eastminster (bottom).
Gensler’s 250m-long proposal would be built on a series of steel platforms and features a high-tech timber-framed structure.
According to the practice, the design ‘takes inspiration from the magnificent hammer-beam roof of Westminster Hall, which was commissioned by Richard II in 1393 and is the largest medieval timber roof in Northern Europe’.
Gensler’s scheme will house ‘all the principal components of the current Houses of Parliament’ with a new entrance from the south side of the Palace next to Victoria Tower Gardens with an option for direct access to the existing Central Lobby if required.
Gensler palace of westminster thames plan
The practice claims the modular structure could be built in less than three years in shipyards across the UK and floated along the Thames before being secured and assembled on the river about 10m from the Palace of Westminster.
Ian Mulcahey, managing director at Gensler, said: ’The concept provides a simple solution to what is a very complex problem. The challenge has been to find a location that enables all the key components of Parliament to be located together in close proximity to the wider government estate in Whitehall. The objective has been to minimise disruption and reduce the cost of the refurbishment to the taxpayer. The Palace of Westminster is one of the most important symbols of democracy in the world.
The objective has been to minimise disruption and reduce the cost
‘This scheme provides a powerful expression of continuity and reinforces UK’s world leading creative expertise.’
Palace of Eastminster by Kieran Thomas Wardle
The strangers entrance left behind
The project is an investigation into what a British Parliament should be in 2016, where it should be located and how it could attempt to alter the way in which power is mediated within politics’ most important space, writes Kieran Thomas Wardle.
Located in East Tilbury, Essex, the new Palace deconstructs the notion of a Parliament building in order to create spaces for public congregation and protest within the physicality of Britain’s legislative process, understanding that spaces have characteristics that affect the conditions in which power can be exercised. Within the Palace of Westminster, a continual process of political shifting has been supported and ultimately formalised through the adaption of architecture and practice within Westminster, the Palace of Eastminster is designed to be the latest chapter of the shift/formalisation process within British democracy. The proposal suggests that architecture must be used to challenge the stagnation of Westminster, the disengagement between politicians and voters, and the dominance of the party system over what should be a truly representative politics. When tackling perceived stagnation, there can be no stronger metaphor than moving something from the centre to the periphery, as with the new Parliament.
The new Palace inverts the traditional arrangement of Westminster and Parliament Square. Through its architecture, the physicality of the legislative process is fragmented so that spaces for public congregation and protest are placed between each and every element of Parliament, reinforcing a degree of encounter and confrontation that has been lost through the sanitisation of Westminster. The semiology of objects and ritual are used in order to alter the way power is mediated within Parliament. Reducing the potency of backroom deals through transparency, limiting the power of party whips through spatial arrangement and re-establishing the bond between Parliament and the public through a process of presence, encounter and protest.
Kieran thomas wardle palce of eastminster hybrid house of commons