London SW1A 2LW
Michael Hopkins and Partners
An audit of parliamentary office
space coincided with the creation of a new tube station for the Jubilee
Line at Westminster, to create the opportunity for a major new office
building as part of the Westminster 'Parliamentary Campus'.
The new tube station, however,
also provided a huge constraint. The new building, with offices for 210
Members of Parliament, had to be built on top of the void of the station's
ticket hall, supported inside its perimeter on only six columns - yet it
also had to be bomb-proof with a planned life of 200 years. The result, in
engineering terms, is impressive: a solid five-story building around a
central courtyard, all supported on massive concrete arches, braced by
steel tension members, that bridge the six supports from the tube station
at the level of the first-floor cloister.
Visually, the exterior of the
building takes its references both from Charles Barry's 1860 Palace of
Westminster, and from Norman Shaw's neighboring 1890 New Scotland Yard
building on Victoria Embankment. The result is a heavy, unfriendly, almost
clumsy facade, dominated in all but the closest views by the fourteen
heavy, black and outsize bronze chimneys lining the top of the three-story
black roof. This massive roof structure is functional - the chimneys draw
used air out of the building - but is also a reference to both the brick
chimneys atop the New Scotland Yard building and the pinnacles (which are
also chimneys) of the Palace of Westminster.
It is as if the
shipbuilding-like engineering that so satisfactorily supports the cloister
over the tube station void became a habit, culminating in the
extraordinary superstructure of ducts and funnels at roof level.
this is the result of an overly 'solid' specification, focusing on the 200
year life, then London's other new parliamentary office building - City
Hall across the river - should give pause for thought. Norman Foster's
stunning City Hall was created and funded as part of a neighboring
commercial office space development, from whom the Greater London
Authority leases the building on a 25-year lease.
How to visit
Portcullis House is on the corner
of Bridge Street and Victoria Embankment, just across the street from Big
The nearest tube station is
Westminster, directly underneath the building.
As parliamentary offices, it is
part of the secure campus of the Palace of Westminster, and not open to the
public. It is possible to see past the security guards into the glazed
courtyard on the Victoria Embankment side. To
visit the interior,
look out for opportunities in London's annual late-September 'open house'
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