MArch Unit 17: Anthropocene Parliament. Chris Roberts & Mark Davies/David Morley Architects

Edward Burtynsky, Iberia Quarries No.8 – Cochicho Co Pardais Portugal, 2006

In 2003 David Morley made a telephone call to Cedric Price to inform him of a commission to build the Kentish Town Sports Centre over the site of his Inter-Action Centre and ask for his blessing for it to be demolished. Of course he said he was absolutely delighted to hear the news and that he’d been waiting for this call for years! We later discovered that he was the only architect to be a fully-qualified member of the National Institute of Demolition Contractors.

Program & Site

Re-imagining The Houses of Parliament:

Development on The Houses of Parliament site in Westminster dates back at least 1,000 years when Danish King Cnut ordered for a palace to be built on the north bank of the River Thames.

The Houses of Parliament we see today designed by Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin was commissioned after a fire in 1834 that destroyed the old palaces. This 1,100 room redevelopment was completed by 1870 but it is reported to be suffering from subsidence and has required a constant maintenance.

There have been recent reports that it could be sold off to developers and schemes have been prepared by various Architects for the 650 members of parliament to decant into temporary accommodation in order to allow the necessary repair and future proofing works to be completed over a 5-7 year period.

The ultimate fate of The Houses of Parliament is yet to be decided, however, when considering it against the three measures of obsolescence (Functional, Economic and Physical) the Unit will move forwards on the basis that it is officially obsolete.

In any event, we need to be contingency planning for the prospect of losing The Houses of Parliament due to a catastrophic event.

So whilst the UK Government and its Houses of Parliament appear to be in a state of collapse and the edifices of our democracy are literally crumbling around us, we need to be planning to restore stability and be prepared to react to an unpredictable future.

The timing of the 19thC collapse and reconstruction of The Houses of Parliament as we know it today coincides with one interpretation of the dawn of the Anthropocene epoch, relating to or denoting the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.

In this age we know that the buildings we lay down leave traces, not only on their physical sites, but also from the material and energy utilised in their construction and operation.

What should be the make-up of the house?

What is its political landscape?

Will it leave a fossil record?

The unit’s approach will be propositional; to re-imagine The Houses of Parliament for our epoch, the Anthropocene.

Key Words: Anthropocene / Parliament / Obsolescence / Homeostasis / The Parliamentary Glossary of Terms