The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Portcullis House

The Twentieth Century Society Rebukes Government in Richmond House planning row

We are shocked and furious at plans to build a temporary House of Commons chamber in the 1980s Grade II* listed Richmond House on Whitehall while the Palace of Westminster undergoes a multi-billion refurbishment.

It is understood the plans could involve the demolition of the majority of Richmond House, designed by Sir William Whitfield and his partner Andrew Lockwood, leaving only its façade intact.

We are backing an alternative scheme by leading architect Sir Michael Hopkins to site the temporary House of Commons chamber within the large atrium of Portcullis House, the Stirling Prize nominated office building for MPs opposite Big Ben.

Portcullis House was designed by Hopkins and opened in 2001. Though not yet developed in detail, the proposal involves converting half the atrium of Portcullis House, leaving the other half free for its existing café and meeting space uses.

Clare Price, C20’s Head of Casework, said: “We are shocked at these plans and furious that despite repeatedly asking the Government for a meeting to discuss this sensitive scheme and Sir Michael’s alternative plans, we are still waiting for this to happen. It is beholden on them to demonstrate openness and transparency and this is just not happening.”

Richmond House is a Grade II* listed building, designated for its contribution to post-war contextual development in a historic setting. The building originally designed in 1819 by Thomas Chawner was demolished behind the façade in 1979, replaced by a new building commissioned by the government and designed by William Whitfield and Andrew Lockwood in a style that responded to conservation concerns raised at the time. The high grade of listing reinforces the extremely great value of this building as a national asset – very few post-war office buildings have such an elevated level of recognition. It is noteworthy that in the list description Historic England fully describes the post-war elements of the building, considering them to be ‘exemplary’ in use of materials, massing, density and plan form and places as great a value on them as on the re-constructed earlier parts.

We have pledged to continue the fight to save Richmond House and are monitoring the situation closely.