New public space finally opens in London’s Parliament Square

Written by Staff Writer at CNN

When London’s famed House of Commons building was first proposed by Lord Salisbury, who purchased the Thames site in 1856, he wondered how it would look with a sunken roof. Architect Grafton Architects took his idea and re-imagined the palace, turning one of its rooftops into an ornate garden.

That garden turned into Parliament Square in 1858 and remained there until 1916, when work on the Palace of Westminster began. Although it has all the trappings of a public park (including a statue of Winston Churchill and a rooftop observatory) it is privately owned.

To put an end to what the Guardian refers to as “unpleasantness” around this place, the charity on Friday handed it back to the public, making Parliament Square home to a new public library, museum and a jubilee flat for the Queen.

The temporary public space will be accessible to the public until 2028. It was designed by architectural firm Mecanoo , who describe it as the most stylized natural garden in the world, referencing the areas of southern and north central London which have been reclaimed by nature, or by developers in the past.

The design firm said it had sought to create an entire palette of colours, shapes and typologies which correspond to a wide range of buildings and streets in London.

“We’ve managed to give this an urbanist rather than a traditional garden” the company said in a statement . “Visitors will be able to have a variety of views of Parliament Square as they move through our landscape, capturing different layers. There’s a grandeur at times reminiscent of the much vaunted dome at the heart of the building, and at others you’ll be treated to something more intimate and symbolic, perhaps surrounded by leaves or a burst of colour.”

A rectangular courtyard situated under the parliament stone, and subtly colored stone blocks surround the reading room which houses a collection of 5,000 rare books. In another section, a panoramic view of the capital from the gardens stretches to the north. A group of men relax in this hall, looking out towards the Houses of Parliament.

Photo by Paula Shinn, courtesy Parliament Square

Photo by Paula Shinn, courtesy Parliament Square

Photo by Paula Shinn, courtesy Parliament Square

Image by Paula Shinn, courtesy Parliament Square

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