A new Parliament! But who will design it?

The House of Commons is in desperate need of a revamp. John Bercow and chums should take inspiration from Google's hip new offices and go for secret booths, snugs and hi-tech Hobbit holes,suggests John Walsh

Parliament, it seems, is in a shocking condition – not the quality of the debate or the shortcomings of the Coalition, but the walls and ceilings and floors of Sir Charles Barry's mid-19th century palace, and everything that's hidden behind, above and beneath them. Decades of rumbling Tube trains have left cracks in Westminster's noble plaster. Drilling into the underground car park has caused the Commons to subside. Big Ben's bell tower now leans, Pisanly, 18in from the perpendicular. There are problems with the wiring, the electrics, the boilers, the plumbing. If our honourable friends don't succumb to the fire risks, it'll only be because the asbestos gets them first.

Things have got so bad that the Speaker, John Bercow, has commissioned a study of the feasibility of moving out all the MPs and Lords to an underground "replica chamber" for five years while it is refurbished – or selling the old Palace and finding a new home for the nation's lawmakers.

A new Parliament! But who will design it? Will they choose a safe, neo- Victorian Gothic pastiche of the old one – or will they strike out on a bright and trendy note, and emulate the edgy new styles currently being championed by Facebook, Apple and Google?

Mark Zuckerberg of the 800 million-strong social network has just signed up Frank Gehry, the architect behind the Guggenheim Museum, to mastermind a new building for 3,400 Facebook engineers. The beauty of Gehry's design is that everyone works underground in a single room, "the largest open-floor plan in the world but [with] plenty of private, quiet spaces as well". All that passers-by will see is a long, tree-filled roof garden. It's rather piquant to think of our 600-odd MPs as subterranean Morlocks or troglodytes, lurking together in a kind of open-plan Middle Earth, presided over by the Hobbit-like Bercow.

A Lord of the Rings quality also clings to Apple's new HQ in Cupertino, California, due to be completed in 2014. The design, approved by Steve Jobs, is a bloody great black ring, a huge, tinted-glass doughnut enclosing and surrounded by trees. Jobs boasted that there wouldn't be a straight piece of glass in the whole building, which would obviously suit a small army of expenses-loving British MPs. They may, however, be dismayed by the prospect of the canteen, that can hold 3,000 staff. It's not Annie's Bar, is it? It sadly lacks that snug quality that's apparently essential to the drafting of legislation about constituency boundaries.

You can, however, hear the displaced Parliamentarians gleefully crying "Call off the search!" when they study Google's new London offices. The building could have been designed with the Commons in mind: so much chintz, so much candlewick, such conflations of the comfy and the collegiate. The Lala Library features a giant, semi-circular white sofa, perfect for relaxed steering committee hearings (come back Louise Mensch!). "Padded cell" meeting rooms are equipped with soft foam walls for those bracing, one-to-one encounters with the Chief Whip. There's a "Hobbit Hole" seating area that's ideal for You-know-who. Secret booths on the roof garden offer healthy alfresco tête-à-têtes for chronic schemers and intriguers. Best of all is the "velourumptious snug", whose seating and walls echo the Common's present button-back green leather, only in more softly padded suede.

This is surely the future of Parliament – no longer an arena of cut-and-thrust rhetoric, of anger, grandstanding and name-calling, but a temperature-controlled chill-out region, where all arguments can be softly resolved, and all ideas reduced to the dimensions of a Wikipedia entry.

Suggested Topics
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Sport
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Sport
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities