The Anonymous Widower

What Are We Going To Do With The Palace Of Westminster?

The Palace of Westminster has an iconic status, in addition to its function as home to the two houses of the British Parliament.

It’s well-document problems, as detailed here with their solution in the Guardian are pretty serious, so something drastic needs to be done to either preserve or replace the building. The article suggests complete modernisation of the way we are governed with electronic voting, modern offices and the like. This is a typical paragraph.

Yet the buildings cannot be considered in isolation. The deterioration of the estate is an opportunity as well as a crisis. There can be no question of expensively retrofitting the palace to recreate outmoded working practices, traditions and habits. Parliament must become a workplace, instead of a Victorian club. Few modern offices do or should have bars, let alone subsidised ones. A rethink of the institutions, organisation and culture is well overdue, and it must be reflected in the renovations chosen.

I agree with the first part of it, but in some ways too much change in the way it works could destroy British democracy for ever.

I feel so strongly, that I wrote this letter to The Times.

I spent most of my working life, writing software to support the project management of large enterprises.

This has led me to the conclusion, that often what gets created  is often very different in concept to the original proposals, once engineers and architects apply some innovative thinking.

I have heard so many arguments in all different directions on the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster, that I despair anything will ever be agreed. So let’s think laterally!

If you go a couple of bridges upstream, you come to the home of MI6. On the river frontage of this building, one of several large junctions for the new Super Sewer is being dug deep into the river.

The most pressing problems in the cramped Palace are space, services and vehicle access and parking.

We could use the techniques of the Super Sewer, to create a building for these urgent needs alongside, but a respectful distance away from the Palace, deep under the river.

The two buildings would be connected by tunnels and if an island garden could be created on top of the new building, by footbridges. Vehicles would enter through tunnels at either end to and from the Embankment. Parking would be solely in the new building, thus releasing space in front of the Palace and freeing up the parking underneath for more important uses.

I believe that creating this second invisible building, would allow the current Lords and Commons to function as normal during the rebuilding. Modern lighting, would even allow the creation of world class offices and perhaps a third chamber under the Thames.

It wasn’t published, as I suspect they filed it under madmen!

But is it so unfeasible and just silly?

Look at this Google Map of the River Thames between Westminster and Lambeth Bridges.

The Palace Of Westminster And The Thames

The Palace Of Westminster And The Thames

The only construction in the river, will be the Super Sewer, that goes underneath it somewhere in the middle. This picture shows the River looking from Victoria Tower Gardens towards Westminster Bridge.

Westminster Bridge

Westminster Bridge

It is a view that must be protected. On the other hand the view on the other side of the Palace, is just a jumble of security blocks and car parking.

In Front Of The Palace Of Westminster

In Front Of The Palace Of Westminster

The whole area is a World Heritage Site and it is not treated with the respect it deserves. In fact, it is a complete disgrace.

This Google Map shows the area of the World Heritage Site.

Westminster World Heritage Site

Westminster World Heritage Site

It needs to be improved by banning all traffic except bicycles and buses from the whole area around Parliament Square, the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey.

Extending my plan to do this would put an immersed tunnel in the river from say Whitehall Gardens opposite the London Eye to Lambeth Bridge.

Whitehall Gardens To Lambeth Bridge

Whitehall Gardens To Lambeth Bridge

It would run through or alongside the new building under the river, that I proposed in the letter to The Times.

Note that there is another building in London, that is built deep down into the water connected to everywhere else by tunnels. It is the massive Lord Foster-designed Canary Wharf station for Crossrail.

The construction of the new building and the tunnels, should be well within the compass of those that designed and built the station.  Incidentally that station was built in six years at a cost of five hundred million pounds., without interfering with the daily life, going on all around. You could even bring in construction materials and take out the large amount of spoil on the river.

Once the building, with its car parks and tunnels is complete and connected to the Palace of Westminster, you could start to refurbish the historic palace.

I think that it is totally feasible,

I would also incorporate the following into the design.

1. Pedestrianise as much of the area as possible, whilst allowing buses and cyclists.

2. Build a modern semi-circular third chamber in the new building, to act appropriately as the Commons or Lords during refurbishment. And why not build it big enough for joint sessions of both houses with all the modern features that most parliaments around the world possess?

3. Put all services, car parking and vehicle access into the new building.

4. The new building would of course contain the extra much needed offices.

5. Perhaps more radically, the top of the building could be covered by a floating island, which could be a viewing garden for the Palace, with access by walkways from Westminster Bridge and Victoria Tower Gardens. It can’t be fixed, as the river is tidal.

I think if we think radically, architects and engineers can come up with a scheme that is workable and turns the Palace into a modern Parliament without any loss of history, and the area into a World Heritage Site worthy of the name.

It won’t happen and in thirty or forty years time, they’ll be another crisis concerning the state of the Palace of Westminster.

June 28, 2015 - Posted by | World | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] Nearly two years ago, I wrote What Are We Going To Do With The Palace Of Westminster? […]

    Pingback by Bolting The Stable Door « The Anonymous Widower | March 23, 2017 | Reply


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