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The Temporary Houses of Parliament  and David Boswell Reid’s architecture of experimentation

Schoenefeldt, Henrik (2014) The Temporary Houses of Parliament  and David Boswell Reid’s architecture of experimentation. Architectural History, 57 (2014). pp. 175-215. ISSN 0066-622X. (doi:10.1017/S0066622X00001416) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:43034)

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The article explores the stack-driven  ventilation system that the  Scottish physician and chemistry professor David Boswell Reid had adopted and tested inside the Temporary Houses of Parliament. The  original environmental systems were reconstructed, using developmental sketches, technical reports and oral accounts,  in a series of drawings. The Temporary Houses, erected in Westminster after the fire as a preliminary home for the British Parliament, were occupied for several years up until the completion of the New Houses of Parliament. This provided Reid  with the unique opportunity to test and optimise a stack ventilation strategy not only over an extended period of time but also under real life conditions. The two debating chambers were used to test and optimise the ventilation system and its day-to-day operation from a physiological, environmental and technical perspective. It also explores in detail the scientific working methods that Reid had originally developed in Edinburgh and how they were applied to the study of the ventilation in the Temporary House of Commons (1835) and in the Temporary House of Lords (1839).

The article also explore the new insights that Reid and his team of attendants had gained through experiments and by monitoring the system over several years. Archival evidence also permitted the author to undertake a detailed analysis of the performance of the system. This  involved a detailed study of the original measurements recorded in the attendants’ log-books, observational studies, user-surveys and reports on various technical experiments  undertaken inside the House of Commons over fifteen year. This analysis showed, for instance, that the day-to-day operation of the system was challenging as the system had to be very responsive to any changes in the weather conditions, atmospheric pollution levels or sudden and extreme fluctuations in the number of MPs inside the chamber. Moreover, it was operated  manually by a team of attendants. To affectively manage the system, a sophisticated monitoring and control regime was developed, which involved, among others, the systematic monitoring of the indoor climate  and the collection and interpretation of user-feedback from MPs while the House was sittings. These aspects have not been studied by historians in any great depth before, but they are critical to fully understand the significance of the environmental experimentation for the  subsequent development of the ventilation in the actual Palace of Westminster.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1017/S0066622X00001416
Uncontrolled keywords: Environmental design, Parliament, history of science, technology, Victorian architecture
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
N Visual Arts > NA Architecture
Q Science > QC Physics
T Technology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > Kent School of Architecture and Planning
Depositing User: Henrik Schoenefeldt
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2014 19:48 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 12:55 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Schoenefeldt, Henrik:
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