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Palace of Westminster
Pariament Square, London
Palace of Westminster
associated engineer
Walker & Burgess
date  1st September 1837 - 24th Dec 1838, 1948 - 1950
UK era  Victorian  |  category  Building  |  reference  TQ301795
ICE reference number  HEW 2323
photo  Paul Cliff
The present Palace of Westminster is home to the two Houses of Parliament that serve the United Kingdom. It dates from 1838, when the complex designed by Sir Charles Barry was completed. Barry won a competition for its design, which was held after the original 11th century royal palace was destroyed by fire on 16th October 1834.
A second disaster was to befall the palace in World War II, when the House of Commons (not visible from the exterior) was destroyed by incendiary bombs dropped on London. It was rebuilt to look very like the original.
The Thames-side site posed several engineering problems, such as the foundations, the need for a fire-resistant structure, the desire to use reclaimed land for the terrace and the provision of building services such as heating, ventilation and drainage.
It has been said that the Houses of Parliament is the first building in which the services provision materially affected the design.
To deal with the foundations and terrace, a 920ft long cofferdam was constructed in the river to the design of Walker & Burgess. It remained in position until 1849. The outer wall was made of a double row of piles with puddled clay between.
The river wall is 7ft 6in thick at the base and 5ft thick at the top. The terrace is made of 26,000 cubic yards of mass concrete. The building sits on yet more concrete a 7 acre raft with an average thickness of 5ft and thicker under the towers.
The three vertical elements Victoria Tower, Central Spire and Clock Tower (housing Big Ben) were governed by ventilation considerations.
The basement is constructed in brick and feature groyned vaulting. The floor and seating in both Houses is supported on cast iron columns and raking girders. The pitched roofs are constructed with cast iron plate-clad trusses screwed to the rafters.
The House of Commons was destroyed by incendiary bombs in May 1941. The chamber was re-built after the war under the direction of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, with heating and ventilation by engineer Oscar Faber and structural work by Faber's partner Stanley Vaughan.
The one surviving part of the Palace of Westminster — Westminster Hall, originally built at the end of the C11th and rebuilt in 1394 forms part of Barry's complex.
Architects: Sir Charles Barry and A.W.N. Pugin
Contractors: Henry & John Lee (coffer dam) and Grissel & Peto (building)
reference sources   CEH Lond

Palace of Westminster