Friday, October 31, 2008

Portcullis House


Portcullis House, where the Silver Surfer Awards ceremony was held, is the relatively new building on the Parliament Campus where the Members of Parliament have their offices. It is connected to the Houses of Parliament by an underground tunnel. There is plenty about it on the web if you are interested, and this website in particular will give you information about its design.
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From the outside it has no charms for me, particularly the heavy industrial looking 'chimneys' on top, which are in fact part of the ventilation system. You enter through glass revolving doors, and have to pass immediately through the security checks: coats and bags on a conveyor belt through a screening frame, and please stand on the footplate while your photo is taken, and printed on a pass which you must wear round your neck.
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Once inside, however, you are into a vast atrium, cleverly photographed in a panoramic view below by one calling himself 'Murky'. In this area are cafes and restaurants for the use of the MPs, but visitors like ourselves were required to go up the stairs (seen here) to find the waiting areas on a sort of gallery or mezzanine floor, which goes right round the well of the atrium. On this floor there were a number of conference suites, including the Attlee Suite where the ceremony would be held.
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However, we were early, so we walked around the gallery a bit, to look at the brilliant cartoons by Gerald Scarfe, of MPs past and present, which are hung there. The walls were panelled from floor to ceiling, as I remember, with flush fitting doors identical to the panelling, so that it was almost impossible to tell if they opened towards or away from you. Even the loo cubicles were the same, with the result that I thought I was stuck in one for a while, until I realised it opened outwards instead of inwards like most loo doors!
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As you walk around the gallery, on the other side from the panelling, there are only floor to ceiling glass walls between you and the atrium below. This creates an unpleasant sensation if your vision is not perfect. Just as the frameless glass doors at the entrance offer unprotected edges to the unwary walking through them, so these glass walls can induce a feeling of vertigo, and we didn't like them much. I stood close to one, and leaned forward to rest my hand for balance on some of the tubular steel structure which appears to support the building, only to find it was on the other side of the glass. I preferred to sit and wait on the benches against the panelled wall - I felt safer that way.
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Eventually 2 o'clock came round and we made our way into the Attlee Suite, picked up our name badges, and took our seats ready for the proceedings to begin.
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Photography is not allowed on the gallery inside Portcullis House, although it is allowed in the conference rooms. The pictures here are the result of a Google images search. There is a website which will take you on a virtual tour of the inside of Portcullis House, and show you the artworks that are there - that is if you can work out how to use the control - I found that a bit vertiginous too!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for useful information!