Architect Piers Gough has called for the government to re-think the ‘criminal’ demolition of the Grade II*-listed Richmond House to make way for a temporary House of Commons
The architect, a founding partner of CZWG, criticised the government’s ‘outrageous arrogance’ as he backed a campaign by SAVE Britain’s Heritage to preserve the Whitfield Partners-designed PoMo building within Parliament’s Northern Estate.
As part of a wider BDP-led decant of the Palace of Westminster to allow for its refurbishment, only the Whitehall façade of the 1980s building would be retained under a Parliament-backed proposal to transform it into a House of Commons chamber and office space for hundreds of MPs and support staff, designed by AHMM.
SAVE Britain’s Heritage and The Twentieth Century Society have called for alternative, less expensive and less destructive proposals to be considered.
Earlier this year, SAVE published proposals, drawn up by Ian Chalk Architects, for ‘pop-up’ chambers for the House of Commons and the House of Lords to be built within the courtyards of HM Treasury and the Foreign Office. It also presented Foster + Partners’ previously prepared alternative of a temporary Parliament building on Horse Guards Parade and Hopkins Architects’ design for a Commons chamber within the existing Portcullis House atrium.
The Twentieth Century Society named Richmond House its most important at-risk building last month.
In a statement of support for SAVE’s campaign, Gough, a former commissioner of English Heritage, said: ‘For the government to demolish one of their own Grade II*-listed buildings is outrageous arrogance. To do it for self serving short-term reasons is criminal. The mendacity in bypassing their own strictures on best use of listed buildings could not be setting a more ominous precedent. Office buildings are not a redundant type in Whitehall.’
Richmond House is the finest example of a civic building of the Postmodern period
Gough said the RIBA award-winning Richmond House, built to the designs of William Whitfield, was ‘the finest example of a civic building of the Postmodern period’.
He added: ‘The interiors and exteriors are in complete harmony. They demonstrate a most compelling architectural intellect and skill in synthesising the modern with the rich and complex history of the surroundings. A powerful statement but palpably deferential to context and at a humane scale.
‘Post-war listings in such a high grade are very few and hard to achieve. They have equal stature with all periods at Grade II*.’
Richmond house edmund harris
Source: Edmund Harris
Gough pointed out that, having occupied the building, the government listed it. He said: ‘This might seem pyrrhic when they are the ultimate guardians of their own heritage. But it was to prevent in advance any generation expediently tempted, through contempt for the recent and familiar, to such casual destruction as now proposed.’
He said that offering no alternative options ‘shows an egregious contempt for the views of the public’ and that the project should be cancelled, with other ‘non-destructive’ options debated.
A spokesperson for the Northern Estate Programme previously told the AJ that, following a year-long inquiry by the joint committee on the Palace of Westminster, all the alternative plots proposed by SAVE had been looked at and ruled out. The temporary relocation of the House of Commons to Richmond House was deemed the ‘best solution’.
The spokesperson added: ‘We believe it is absolutely right that taxpayers’ money should be spent carefully and with long-term public benefit in mind, given the sums involved. The new building at Richmond House will create a permanent legacy, as opposed to the use of temporary structures, which would need to be removed later, once the chamber was relocated back into the Palace of Westminster.’
An application for planning approval is expected to be submitted to Westminster City Council in the autumn.