Westminster Hall

Westminster Hall

Westminster Hall is the oldest building within the Parliamentary estate. Built in 900 AD it is Grade 1 listed and world-renowned for it’s astonishing architectural beauty, in particular the magnificence of its roof, often regarded as “the greatest creation of medieval timber architecture".

It is steeped in British history and still maintains a significant role in British culture - it is central to formal and ceremonial events. It is where countless British monarchs and other world leaders have addressed Parliament and is the venue for Royals and other national dignitaries granted a state funeral to lie in state.

Despite this, the Parliamentary Estates Department recognised that the Hall’s current vertical traffic systems were in need of a review. This was in order to deal with the accessibility requirements demanded by the significant number of visiting tourists to the Hall, as well as the average traffic flow to numerous everyday working areas (such as offices and committee rooms) which make Westminster Hall a functioning facility.

This commission to review vertical transport provision created many challenges for SVM Associates when appointed due to the several key factors needed to be considered within the brief:

  • Disabled tourists needed to remain with and keep up with their tour group.
  • Offices, committee rooms to be made accessible. In common with any other day to day working area.
  • No disturbance of the places of worship (The Crypt Chapel) by any mechanical solution.
  • No (or minimal) architectural impact to surrounding area. Entirety of Hall to be returned to original state within 6 hours at short notice in case of ceremony requirement.
  • As part of the analysis we developed a movement schematic to assist the understanding of how levels are vertically connected. This is an approach unique to SVM.

These exceptional requirements and constraints demanded consideration and feasibility development of many unconventional solutions including:

  • Removable platforms
  • Drum drive lifts
  • Transforming steps
  • Stair-climbing vehicles

The challenges presented by this study and our willingness to explore all, even non-conventional solutions, was a key factor in our appointment as framework designers and advisers to the Parliamentary Estate Department.


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