THE GOVERNMENT OF JAMAICA
Houses of Parliament Design Competition
The New Jamaica Houses of Parliament
The Houses of Parliament (HOP) have been hosted at the George William Gordon House on Duke Street in Kingston since Jamaica’s Independence in 1962. This arrangement was meant to be temporary, as the location was built, owned by and intended for use by the Kingston and St Andrew (Municipal) Corporation (KSAMC). Indeed, it had been envisioned for some time that a permanent facility would be constructed at the National Heroes Park, Kingston. The King George VI Act of 1956 speaks to this and made provision for up to 11.4 acres to be reserved specifically for this purpose.
In 2016, the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) revived the concept and mandated the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) to lead the planning and development of a Government Campus around Heroes Circle, that would feature the new Houses of Parliament on the grounds of National Heroes Park.
The National Heroes Park sits on approximately 50.0 acres of land. Under the King George VI Memorial Park Act, clause 7. (2) – the maximum area of land that may be vested in the Commissioner of Lands for the purposes of the parliament building is 11.4 acres. Of that amount, approximately 10.79 acres have been proposed for the HOP building complex, which includes the main HOP building and the two (2) parking structures. Within this 10.79 acres, the main building’s footprint inclusive of the surrounding fence sits on approximately 8.0 acres of the land.
The Project is divided into two main components: i) The Houses of Parliament Building; and ii) A Public Landscaped Green Space and Recreational Park which will occupy the remaining approximately 38.6 acres of the park.
Rationale for the Project
For some time, the existing Parliament Building at Gordon House has not been functioning in an efficient and effective manner. The Jamaican Parliament is the legislative branch of the government which consists of three elements: The Monarch represented by the Governor General, the nominated Senate or the Upper House (made up of twenty-one (21) Senators) and the elected House of Representatives, known as the Lower House (consisting of 63 members). When functioning optimally, it is intended to be bicameral with two legislative bodies operating from separate chambers. The current facility has only one chamber that is shared by both the Upper and the Lower House and as such only one body can meet at a time.
There are irreparable issues with public access and barrier free accessibility i.e. allowing safe and easy access for persons with physical and other disabilities, to the chamber floor and other areas. The current building also has inadequate parking, office and administrative spaces for the various operational components of this important facility. There are no committee meeting rooms and this has often resulted in delays in advancing the legislative agenda. These shortcomings have been further highlighted and exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic which have made even more evident, that the facility cannot accommodate nor allow for Parliament to function within the current building and especially not while maintaining the proper social distancing protocols. A new, modern, purpose-built building is
therefore required, and will serve not only to improve the effectiveness of Parliament, but to establish itself as an iconic symbol of a Government for the People of Jamaica.
Vision 2030 proposes several sustainable measures with the goal of making “Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business.” Included in this objective is greater access to green spaces in Jamaica. While referencing the use of the National Heroes Park for the Parliament, the King George VI Memorial Park Act also speaks to the Park being used as “a public garden, pleasure park and recreational area for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Corporate Area”. The creation of a well landscaped and maintained green space with supporting administrative facilities using the Emancipation Park model in New Kingston, will address an important public necessity for this section of Kingston. The benefits of green spaces to the mental and physical health and wellness of the public are well established.
The development will be a catalyst that will drive the improvement of the social and economic conditions of Heroes Circle Area and its surrounding environs. While the project is not dependent on any other project or event for effectiveness; it has been conceptualized as the central aspect of a proposed larger Government Campus Project. It is anticipated that this overall development will then be a further vehicle to encourage the even greater re-development of the Downtown Area.
The project is expected to provide various benefits to the users of the HOP building, as well as to the businesses and residents in the surrounding areas and the wider citizens of the Corporate Area and Jamaica as a whole. Among the intended benefits are:
- Creation of new, modern facilities and grounds for Parliament, enabling more effective and improved parliamentary performance;
- Provision of adequate chambers and committee rooms to allow for both Houses to meet simultaneously and carryout the People’s business in a timely manner;
- Creation of new green, recreational and gathering space for the general public to use, resulting in improved overall physical and mental health and well-being;
- Creation of approximately 150-200 jobs during the implementation (directly and indirectly related to the construction), as well as approximately 106 additional operations’ jobs including facility management, security, tour guides and park maintenance;
- Catalytic effect of the complete project for the re-energized development of the surrounding areas, resulting in the stimulation of economy from the direct investments (including businesses in the area to support the needs of staff and visitors;)
The philosophy of the “Out of Many, One People” design speaks to the equality of the Jamaican people, in that all “sides” and both the public and ceremonial entrances, present the same general appearance to the public, with no prominent front or back facade. The surrounding crossed columns and roof represent the crossed arms of the people, integral to and supporting their own governance. The building complex sits within a well-landscaped setting inclusive of water features, hardscape, and gardens. The landscape
is integrated with the architecture to manage stormwater, protect water quality, and bring elements of nature into the facility. The building’s simplicity in the form leads to ease of construction, operation, and maintenance. Other key features include:
- A Total Floor Area of 12,360 sq. m.
- 3 main levels and 2 sub levels
- Upper and Lower Houses chambers and related spaces
- Gallery Seating (Public, VIP and Press)
- Conference Rooms
- Committee Meeting Rooms
- Administrative and Maintenance Offices
- Press Briefing Room
- Media Area and Broadcast Studio
- Printing Facility
- Aftercare Centre
- Wellness Centre
- Members Dining Hall and Lounge
- Kitchen and Cafeteria
- A Café (open to the Public)
- Parliamentary Museum
- Offices for the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, Speaker, other MPs, President of the Senate and other Senators
- Secured Underground Parking for approx. 400 cars