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Parliament refurb: AHMM reveals first images of MPs’ temporary home


AHMM has revealed its proposals for a temporary new home for the House of Commons within the 1980s Grade II*-listed Richmond House in Whitehall

The scheme, which includes a new debating chamber, is part of BDP’s wider £1.6 billion masterplan for Parliament’s Northern Estate. MPs will relocate to the building in the mid 2020s while the Palace of Westminster undergoes a £4 billion refurbishment.

The proposals have already drawn anger from heritage campaigners who are concerned that the majority of the ‘superb’ Richmond House building, except for the façade, will be demolished.

Last October, SAVE Britain’s Heritage spoke out after learning of planned changes to the structure, which was designed by Whitfield Partners and completed in 1986. Until recently it was occupied by the Department of Health.

The government admits that the AHMM scheme would effectively ‘replace’ Richmond House, with a design of ‘exceptional architectural quality’. It would, however, ‘retain key frontages visible to the public on Whitehall’.

As well as a triple-height central lobby space, the roughly £400 million redevelopment includes refurbishing the Georgian 1822 Richmond Terrace as well as 54 Parliament Street and 85 Whitehall.

The project features a new temporary entrance and visitor pavilion in front of Richmond House’s existing main façade opposite the Cenotaph. A series of three metre-high steel railings will seperate the entrance pavilion from the pavement which will be enlarged with the closure of one lane of southbound traffic along Whitehall and Parliament Street.

Designs for the railings have yet to be finalised and remain subject to consultation. John Cryer, director of Northern Estate Programme said the railings were demoutable for ceremonial events and the proposal represented a ‘sensible balance between security and public realm.’

Once complete the redeveloped Richmond House will create a ‘secure working space’ for all 650 MPs along with ‘thousands of staff’. A new name for the temporary parliament building has yet to be decided. 

According to the design team, the new temporary chamber ’has been carefully designed to replicate the familiar character and the functions of the existing House of Commons chamber and will provide a greater level of accessibility for MPs and visitors, including a fully accessible public gallery’.

A new press gallery and education and participation spaces would also ‘be provided to ensure public access and engagement’.

AHMM’s Paul Monaghan said the new chamber was ’carefully designed to reflect the form of the House of Commons but will be modelled in a different manner allowing wheelchair access and the same number of seats.’ 

Monaghan said the exterior of the new building set out to be a ‘polite neighbour’ by quoting the distinctive corner details, three-bay windows, string courses and London stock bricks used in Whitfield’s original Richmond House.

A spokesperson for the project added: ‘The designs are also very mindful of the temporary use of the chamber itself and the brief has been thoroughly tested and pared back to ensure best value for money for the taxpayer.’

In 2016, BDP landed the contract to oversee the conversion of a number of listed buildings on the Northern Estate and create a new campus for MPs during Parliament’s refurbishment. 

Work includes refurbishing and upgrading around 15,300m² of office space in several historic buildings, including the Norman Shaw buildings originally designed as the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, along with 1 Derby Gate and 1 Parliament Street.

A series of planning applications are expected to be submitted later this year with public consultation running until the end of June. Key elements of the Northern Estate masterplan include refurbishing the Grade I-listed Norman Shaw North office block – originally constructed as a Metrpolitan Police headquarters – and transforming its courtyard into a new atrium.

A 1980s extension to 1 Parliament Street will also be remodelled while Grade II*-listed Norman Shaw South will receive a full refurbishment and new raised courtyard garden. A subterannean ‘buggy route’ beneath the estate will also allow existing surface level roads currently used for parking to be re-landscaped.

Alistair Travers, architectural director at BDP said the scheme would create a ’cohesive campus’ out of a collection of historic buildings which had never been intended to host a parliament.

Subject to planning, work could start on the Northern Estate next year though a full decant from the Palace of Westminster is not expected until 2025 at the earliest.

Liz Peace, chair of the shadow Sponsor Board of the Restoration and Renewal Programme, said: ‘These designs represent a really important first milestone on the way to creating a fully restored and renewed Palace of Westminster.

‘It’s increasingly urgent to carry out this work, and these proposals for the temporary House of Commons show that we’re making progress on this hugely important project.’

Meanwhile, the House of Lords is set to be rehoused in the Powell & Moya-designed Queen Elizabeth II conference centre, built in 1986. However that project, which is again being looked at by BDP, is only at the feasibility stage.

Ministers today introduced legislation to create a London Olympics-style delivery body which will effectively run the revamp of Parliament – a job also being overseen by BDP. A planning application for the Northern Estate and Richmond House redevelopment will be submitted later this year.

Plans to renew the Grade I-listed Palace of Westminster are meanwhile currently undergoing early consultation and expected to reach RIBA Stage 2 by 2021. Once MPs return to the Palace of Westminster the temporary debating chamber could either be retained as an emergency backup or transformed into a public archive space, museum or conference facilitity.

The three metre-high railings on Whitehall will also be removed once the MPs have relocated to their original home.

©bdp northern estate masterplan

©bdp northern estate masterplan

BDP’s northern Estate masterplan

The northern estate plans in a nutshell

  • A temporary House of Commons Chamber within a redeveloped Richmond House
  • Improvements to the Grade I listed Norman Shaw North Building, with a new lightweight glass atrium created in the courtyard
  • A new building within the existing courtyard of the Grade II* Norman Shaw South, which will become office space for MPs and staff 
  • Significant conservation improvements to other historic buildings, including to the rear elevations of the buildings fronting Canon Row and at 2 and 3 Parliament Street to improve internal layouts and modernise plant and equipment
  • A link to connect Portcullis House with the wider Northern Estate, with expanded catering facilities to the rear of the building opening out onto Canon Row for informal meetings
  • Enhanced security and improvements to the external environment, including a temporary visitor access pavilion in front of Richmond House, which would be removed once the House of Commons returns to the Palace of Westminster
  • New internal landscaping, to improve circulation across the estate
  • The complete remodelling of the rear 1980s elevation of 1 Parliament Street, to provide additional flexible, modern workspace.

Readers' comments (10)

  • Why spend all that money on something temporary that will be over budget and run years late. Surely an existing building ,or buildings, could be easily re-purposed. What a waste of public funds.

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  • This is a preposterous waste of taxpayers money.

    If a temporary parliament were to be proposed it should be proposed in another City such as Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester etc etc leading investment in other other areas of the UK. You could produce an extensive development for this amount of money rather than tiptoeing around the complexity of London. Look at Crossrail for example; the real reason for the huge uplift is trying to build in such a complex environment.

    The reality is that the Palace of Westminster is not fit for the purpose of 21stC democracy or environmental standards and should be turned into a museum. We could still have the pomp and splendour if that's what people are worried about loosing; once or twice a year Parliament could be convened in the new museum.

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  • As a piece of architecture this looks good. The facades are rich and interesting, and I didn't even know Norman Shaw had a courtyard. The reality of the lovely pathways etc won't emerge tho as that area is locked down tighter than you know what and no public access is permitted beyond the pub garden in Derby gate or down cannon Row. Clearly it's a tricky brief but it looks good. As for it being temporary, it won't be demolished but simply re-used, surely.

    The only real issue is that gutting a listed building isn't really acceptable.

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  • Missed opportunity to 'put the show on the road' and move it around the country - lots of temporary seating to use and plenty of sheds to put them in

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  • nothing wrong with the design - its the brief that is questionable.

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  • Wrecking a grade II* listed building for a glossy answer to a deeply anachronistic brief is hardly the best way to rehouse the Commons, even temporarily.

    Our current archaic electoral system -- of First Past The Post -- matches the current House of Commons' oppositional layout in terms of spatial psychology (Axiology). Together they inflate the power of major parties of the old duopoly out of proportion to voter representation, suppress minor parties and views, and discourage attempts to reach consensus.

    The current movement to multi-party politics makes it high time we adopted a fairer and more enlightened system of voter representation, and a correspnding spatial layout to suit negotiations between equals.

    Proportional Representation by a single transferrable vote ((STV) was first advocated by David Hume centuries ago as an indispensable first step. The semi-circular seating layouts of modern parliamentary assemblies like the European Parliament minimise opposition in the same way as round tables best foster consensus-seeking diplomacy.

    The current Place of Westminster, made safe, would make a great tourist attraction while Parliament is much better permanently rehoused to match 21st century demands -- whether in London or elsewhere.

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  • PS typo -- I meant Palace of Westminster.

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  • The one thing that all governments, of any colour, are extremely efficient at is wasting public money.

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  • A massive missed opportunity. MP's and Government should have been forced to relocate temporarily to another city or cities to make them face up to the disparity of investment and connectivity that the rest of the country suffers from.

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  • I think that Barrow in Furness has post-industrial sheds that could form a cost-effective shell for a temporary parliament. Life there for a few years would be quite a surprise for many of our national politicians.

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