"A Victorian Novel in Stone"
That is how Mary Hill describes the Houses of Parliament. The Central Lobby is pictured above.
This great Victorian novel in stone tells the story of Britain's past. . .within the fabric of the building, in its richly colored glass and murals, and even in its floor plan. If you stand - which you are entitled to do as a member of the public - at the exact heart of the building, in the Central Lobby, you can see the architecture unfold around you as a diagram of government.
In one direction, through the House of Lords, you see the sovereign's throne, where the monarch sits to open Parliament. Far away at the other end of the central axis, through the Commons, is the speaker's chair, representing the elected house. Monarch and people face each other in delicate counterbalance.
This reflects the balance of power once embodied in the British Constitution.
Mary Hill is the author of God's Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain. She describes the relationship between Charles Barry, who gave the Houses of Parliament their "skeleton", and Pugin, who gave them "flesh".
Pugin was another one of those amazing Victorians. Hill writes -
At the age of 24 Pugin had written the first ever architectural manifesto; then, before he was 30, he had built 22 churches, three cathedrals - including England's first since St. Paul's - several schools and a Cistercian monastery. It was Pugin who invented the Victorian church as a building type, and he was just on the point of reinventing the modern family house.
By the way, we've received some illuminating comments on the constitutional balance between Parliament and The Queen at Frank correspondence with The Queen and the Head of Constitutional Policy.