Members of Parliament are currently battling one another over plans for the ‘restoration and renewal’ of the Palace of Westminster. One side, backed by management consultants and the Joint Committee report, say the whole place has to be shut down completely for years starting in 2020. The other, led by Sir Edward Leigh MP and Shailesh Vara MP, says if work is so urgent it should start immediately, but that both the Commons and the Lords should continue to meet within the Palace, preserving centuries of tradition and keeping up the dignity and ceremony for which Great Britain is known.
With ideas flowing back and forth, outsiders to the Westminster bubble have put forth their own ideas — the architect Anthony Delarue’s suggestion has received the most serious consideration so far — and the global design firm Gensler has weighed in with its own proposal.
Gensler’s idea calls for a floating slug bearing a distinct resemblance to the Gherkin to be built and moored alongside the Palace of Westminster. This floating parliament would have plenary chambers for both the House of Lords and the House of Commons as well as committee rooms and other meeting places necessary to the functioning of the legislature.
While it’s a serious idea, the floating slug is not under actual consideration but is merely a conceptual exercise put out there by Gensler. Security concerns alone would lead to its rejection, not to mention worry over the hole in the historic fabric that would need to be punched through in order to access the slug.
Architect Conor K Lynch has come up with his own counter-proposal to the counter-proposal, in a more traditional style. Lynch’s quick sketch envisages a floating classical palace rather than a slug.
After most of the Palace of Westminster burned down in 1834, some did propose building a new legislative palace in a classical style — perhaps even away from Westminster, in Hyde Park for example. But the romantics won out, and when the design competition was held it was specified that the design should be in the gothic style.
Again, neither of these proposals will come to pass, but they add to the conversations regarding the future of the Palace of Westminster. It is expected that the matter will come before the floor of the Commons within the next month or so, though a date for a debate on the relevant motion has yet to be announced.