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Norman Foster calls for House of Lords architectural contest

Norman Foster HR crop use

Norman Foster has backed plans to hold an architectural competition for a new House of Lords chamber outside London

The 84-year-old architect, himself a former member of the House of Lords, said the government should aim for a ‘great building’ outside the capital.

In a letter published in The Times today (22 January), the architect – writing as Lord Foster and president of the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust – said the ‘power of architecture’ should be used ‘to express our political and economic ambitions’.

At the weekend, The Sunday Times reported that Boris Johnson wants to move the upper chamber of Parliament – including its 800 peers – out of London, with York reported to be the favoured location and Birmingham also under consideration.

Speaking to Sky on Sunday (19 January), Tory Party chair James Cleverly said: ‘What we are looking at is a whole range of options about making sure every part of the UK feels properly connected from politics.

‘When the PM stood up the day after the election and said this is going to be the people’s government he meant it. That meant connecting people with government and politics.’

In his letter, Foster advised the government ‘to take a cue’ from the ambitious approach of the Victorians, who understood ‘how great buildings could demonstrate confidence in our future’.

He added: ‘If we are to build a new House of Lords, we must set our sights every bit as high and produce work that represents the very best that our age can offer. An architectural competition, backed by a clear brief, would be the place to start.’

Foster was forced to give up his seat in the House of Lords in 2010, two years after it was revealed that he spent most of his time in Switzerland and was non-resident in the UK for tax purposes. However, he kept his title as Lord Foster of Thames Bank.

Shutterstock parliament

Shutterstock parliament 


Readers' comments (7)

  • chris Dyson

    This is a Fantastic Concept - as a Yorkshire man i have a slight bias ...however the north would be wonderful!

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  • Total waste of time and money moving an outdated institution from existing premises into undoubtedly costly (with the budget always increasing!) public funded white elephant.

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  • I applaud the idea of an architectural contest but it must be open to all, otherwise we will just see the usual suspects and a worthy but dull solution. It would be great to see something as exciting as the ZH Cardiff opera house from a small practice!

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  • Non-tax paying peer wants a publicly-funded design competition for a new care home for entitled residents? The House of Lords is about two centuries past its sell-by date and it's really not a good look for the architectural profession to be supporting any continuation of this unreformed, unrepresentative and totally undemocratic institution.

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  • The way Boris & co are shaping up the House of Lords might be nowhere near its sell-by date, in terms of acting as a brake on the grosser activities of our assorted elected representatives - or, perhaps, in terms of alerting a rather punch-drunk electorate in the event that the Lords are treated with institutional contempt.
    But to park them (out of the way?) in a provincial city would be to ignore the fact that they are indeed an elderly bunch of people, set in their ways but frequently wise and generally free of the brash, self-serving opportunism of rather too many of our democratically elected representatives.
    I'm surprised that the offshore Lord Foster isn't suggesting housing them in his proposed central London RPG launcher, to add a veneer of respectability to it and taunt Boris with dreams of being able to send them into space to be harmlessly detonated.

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  • ...make it an elected house and you have a winner of an idea...

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  • Daniel Lacey

    So much for retrofit first.

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