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Jack Swanson

MA work

The Parliament of Okay Britain

Protego ergo Obligo,: The principle of obedience for protection, lies at the heart of the Hobbesian model of the nation state. Hobbes’ catchphrase establishes a neat relationship between the establishment and the citizenry. Commentators such as Martin Loughlin, professor of public law at the LSE argue that this basic principle has been the de-facto constitution of the United Kingdom up until the present day. Yet this cosy symbiosis is beginning to unravel.

We see this in the result of the Brexit referendum, in the rise of Celtic and English nationalism and in the growth of Corbynism. The common themes of these political phenomena are that they contradict the settled position of the Westminster establishment; the citizens are growing restless.

At the same time the ancient seat of British democracy itself is crumbling and the Houses of Parliament at Westminster are about to undergo a £3.5 billion restoration. Would it not be a more dignified (and English) end to simply allow this great edifice on the Thames to crumble into a picturesque ruin? Not as a monument to a distant past but as a confident departure to a new future. After all it was Nye Bevan who said that “The House of Commons is like a church and the building expects us to worship the most conservative religion of all – ancestor worship.”

A new constitutional settlement for the United Kingdom would see the country being divided into 12 similarly sized regions to reduce English dominance in the political union. The new collective parliament will be based in Liverpool, a city that sits at the heart of the archipelago with a local culture that arguably isn’t quite English but whose people (and their accents) emerge from amalgamation of identities from across the islands.

Located on the southern end of St George’s plateau, the proposed parliament explores the relationship between democracy and architectural representation. Formally the building attempts to go beyond the idea of the generic glass box embodying ideas of democratic transparency, or of a building on a plinth denoting power. Instead the form is ambiguous and multifaceted, which allows the building to be read in a variety of ways. This ambiguity allows many groups to claim ownership of the institution of parliament, subverting the use of architecture as a tool to establish clear hierarchies.

The covered square at the centre of the parliament forms the main debating chamber and is an undulating abstract landscape. On the 205 days of the year when the chamber isn’t in use, the square becomes a public park, further blurring the boundaries between civic and democratic life.

Inside the heavy concrete skeleton of the building, lighter buildings with shorter life spans fulfill the specific programmatic requirements of the parliament. As a result the building itself must undergo perpetual revolution over a time frame of decades. This ensures that the building cannot permanently acquire objects that have explicit political meaning. In this sense, the proposal can be understood as an ‘Urban artefact,’ as outlined by Aldo Rossi. The building itself is intended to gather cultural value over many years but the program may adapt, perhaps one day even ceasing to be a parliament. In this respect the project investigates the constantly changing relationship between buildings and the institutions that inhabit them. 

Info

  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Architecture

    Programme

    MA Architecture, 2018

  • Protego ergo Obligo: The principle of obedience for protection, lies at the heart of the Hobbesian model of the nation state. Hobbes’ catchphrase establishes a neat relationship between the establishment and the citizenry. Commentators such as Martin Loughlin, professor of public law at the LSE argue that this basic principle has been the de-facto constitution of the United Kingdom up until the present day. Yet this cosy symbiosis is beginning to unravel.

    We see this in the result of the Brexit referendum, in the rise of Celtic and English nationalism and in the growth of Corbynism. The common themes of these political phenomena are that they contradict the settled position of the Westminster establishment; the citizens are growing restless.

    At the same time the ancient seat of British democracy itself is crumbling and the Houses of Parliament at Westminster are about to undergo a £3.5 billion restoration. Would it not be a more dignified (and English) end to simply allow this great edifice on the Thames to crumble into a picturesque ruin? Not as a monument to a distant past but as a confident departure to a new future. After all it was Nye Bevan who said that “The House of Commons is like a church and the building expects us to worship the most conservative religion of all – ancestor worship.”

    A new constitutional settlement for the United Kingdom would see the country being divided into 12 similarly sized regions to reduce English dominance in the political union. The new collective parliament will be based in Liverpool, a city that sits at the heart of the archipelago with a local culture that arguably isn’t quite English but whose people (and their accents) emerge from amalgamation of identities from across the islands.

    Located on the southern end of St George’s plateau, the proposed parliament explores the relationship between democracy and architectural representation. Formally the building attempts to go beyond the idea of the generic glass box embodying ideas of democratic transparency, or of a building on a plinth denoting power. Instead the form is ambiguous and multifaceted, which allows the building to be read in a variety of ways. This ambiguity allows many groups to claim ownership of the institution of parliament, subverting the use of architecture as a tool to establish clear hierarchies.

    The covered square at the centre of the parliament forms the main debating chamber and is an undulating abstract landscape. On the 205 days of the year when the chamber isn’t in use, the square becomes a public park, further blurring the boundaries between civic and democratic life.

    Inside the heavy concrete skeleton of the building, lighter buildings with shorter life spans fulfill the specific programmatic requirements of the parliament. As a result the building itself must undergo perpetual revolution over a time frame of decades. This ensures that the building cannot permanently acquire objects that have explicit political meaning. In this sense, the proposal can be understood as an ‘Urban artefact,’ as outlined by Aldo Rossi. The building itself is intended to gather cultural value over many years but the programme may adapt, perhaps one day even ceasing to be a parliament. In this respect the project investigates the constantly changing relationship between buildings and the institutions that inhabit them. 


  • Degrees

  • BArch Architecture, Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art, 2015; Erasmus exchange, Atelier Sergison, Accademia di Architettura, Mendrisio, 2015
  • Experience

  • Architectural assistant, Sergison Bates Architects, London, 2015-2016; Architectural assistant, Landscape projects, Manchester, 2016; Architectural assistant, APPARATA architects, London, 2017
  • Awards

  • Commendation, Glasgow Institute of Architects, 2013 and 2014; JD Kelly memorial prize, 2013.; Ede and Ravenscroft prize, Glasgow School of Art, 2014.