Worldwide architecture firm, Gensler, has proposed a temporary, floating parliament to accommodate the House of Commons and the House of Lords while an urgent six-year refurbishment takes place.
Built between 1840 and 1870, the Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament, was designed by Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin. It also contains the remnants of much older structures that date back to the 1000s.
The building is in urgent need of a refurbishment costing between £4-6 billon and projected to take a minimum of six years, during which the House of Lords and the House of Commons will be temporarily relocated.
Gensler has come up with an innovative, floating parliament, 250 metres long and 42 metres wide with a wooden frame supporting curved panels of glass. Shaped like and elongated bubble, the structure would be made up of individual modules constructed by shipbuilders and transported along the River Thames and assembled on steel platforms in front of the Palace of Westminster.
The floating houses would be separated into two areas internally and expressed externally by two gentle bumps at either end of the structure. The concept is based on the hammer-beam roof of Westminster Hall, the Palace’s oldest building, which is the largest medieval timber roof in Europe and was commissioned in 1393 by Richard II.
“The concept provides a simple solution to what is a very complex problem,” said Gensler managing director, Ian Mulcahey. “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 Palace of Westminster is one of the most important symbols of democracy in the world. This scheme provides a powerful expression of continuity and reinforces the UK’s world-leading creative expertise.”
The proposal is estimated to cost around £160 million, representing a £1.8 billion saving in relocation and rental costs, and could be moved for use elsewhere once the refurbishment work was complete.
Gensler has also suggested that the river round the structure would act as a natural moat maintaining the traffic exclusion zone and protecting the security of the MPs and Lords.
Work is expected to start on the refurbishment after 2020, but the complexity of the project has already led to reports of delays.