Gensler proposes real-life “Westminster bubble” for UK parliament

Gensler has proposed moving the UK parliament into a floating bubble style building on London’s River Thames to reduce the cost of refurbishing the Palace of Westminster.

The world’s largest architectural firm wants to create a 250-metre-long and 42-metre-deep temporary structure from steel modules and a wooden frame clad in curved panels of glass to house both the House of Commons and House of Lords.

The components would be made by British shipbuilders before being transported along Thames and assembled on steel platforms next to Palace of Westminster.

The floating building would be shaped like an elongated bubble, and separated into two areas internally – one for the Commons and one for the Lords. These would be expressed externally by two bumps at either end of the structure.

Gensler’s concept is based on the hammer-beam roof of Westminster Hall, the roof of the Palace’s oldest building, which is the largest medieval timber roof in Europe and was commissioned in 1393 by King Richard II.

“The building would be a dramatic, high-tech, wooden-framed structure covering 8,600 square metres, which would provide all the necessary environmental and acoustic containment,” said Gensler.

“The structure would add a new iconic landmark to London and would not impact the protected vista of the Palace of Westminster from the summit of Parliament Hill.”

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 contains the remnants of much older structures that date back to the 1000s.

It is now in urgent need of refurbishment work estimated to cost around $10bn. MPs and Lords will be relocated for at least six years to enable the project.