Don’t MPs deserve a well-designed workplace too?

Concerns are growing the the Houses of Parliament are in dire need of refurbishment and redesign, with speaker John Bercow suggesting that they may have to be “abandoned” within 20 years. It’s acknowledged that a well-designed workspace is key to good performance – don’t MPs deserve a bit of good design?

Image by Flickr user undHOP
Image by Flickr user undHOP

When Baroness Martha Lane-Fox spoke at the Design Council’s Leading Business by Design conference last year, one of the suggestions that she made was that the Houses of Parliament could do with some serious interior design attention.

It looks like this might actually be happening, with John Thurso, chairman of the Commons finance and services committee, saying that a decision on restoration for the building will take place in the next Parliament. 

And this is not before time – the Financial Times reports Lord Lisvane, former clerk of the House of Commons, describing the building’s basement as a “cathedral of horrors” and warning that “a catastrophic failure of services is never far away”.

A rather unpleasant-sounding “disaster scenario”, in which the building’s main sewer fails, has also been mooted.

Speaker John Bercow has suggested that the building might have to be “abandoned” in the next 20 years if refurbishment doesn’t take place.

Refurbishment of the 19th-century building – while clearly necessary – would also be extremely complicated and costly, with experts suggesting the bill could be up to £3 billion and that the process should be managed by a “delivery authority” similar to the one that oversaw the London 2012 Olympics.

The importance of workplace design is well documented. The 2013 Leading Business by Design report highlighted a number of organisations who had looked to position themselves as being design-led by physically embedding good design in their workspaces.

In just a few examples, Virgin Atlantic reorganised its offices to better reflect its brand positioning, while Diageo boasts separate space for design reviews and both Challs and DCS Europe have “innovation rooms”.

Interestingly, former Virgin Atlantic head of design Luke Miles suggested that the next big challenge for designers – familiar with how organisations interact with their users and customers – could be to look at how they interact with their staff.

While MPs might not always be the most popular people in the country – and that’s unlikely to change as we head into election season – is it unreasonable to suggest that they might benefit from well-designed surroundings? 

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