This model consists of approximately 9,500 pieces.
About this creation
The Palace of Westminster, commonly referred to as the Houses of Parliament, serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords and is the seat of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The entire complex is situated on an eleven acre site in the Westminster borough along the west bank of the River Thames in Central London. The current palace consists of buildings constructed between the tenth and nineteenth centuries. Along with Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret's, the Palace of Westminster has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and is, without a doubt, one of the most instantly recognizable buildings in London, if not the world.
This is my forty-third landmark model and my second model of a London landmark. In many ways, I see this model as the epitome of expressing Gothic Revivalism at 1:650 scale in LEGO«. Using cues from a multitude of my previous early twentieth century skyscraper models, as well as numerous new design techniques, I was able to design the palace in its entirety, something that only few builders have heretofore accomplished at any scale. Model completed November 28, 2015.
The Palace of Westminster was originally built during the Middle Ages between the tenth and eleventh centuries. At first, it served as the primary residence of The Crown, until a fire in 1512 destroyed most of the complex. From then on, it has served as the home of the Parliament of England. The only parts of the complex to survive the subsequent 1834 fire were Westminster Hall and several smaller Medieval structures, all of which still exist today.
The Palace of Westminster is my first model to incorporate lighting. In an effort to evoke the actual nighttime lighting, I used several LED light-up bricks placed beneath trans-orange plates to achieve the appropriate shade against the tan and dark tan elements of the fašades. Since the nighttime lighting is so characteristic of this building, I felt the need to capture its essence, thereby enhancing the scope of the realism.
The palace's most striking fašade is the 873 ft-long River Front, which sits on reclaimed land along the River Thames. This entire frontage, along with everything east of the original Medieval sections, was constructed between 1840 and 1870. The design of the new buildings was led by architect Charles Barry, who implemented a Gothic Revival style that was inspired by the earlier English Perpendicular Gothic style. The new replacement buildings, which made the complex much larger than its predecessors, contain more than 1,100 rooms, 100 staircases and three miles of passageways, organized symmetrically between two series of courtyards.
The most famous feature of the entire complex is the 315 ft Elizabeth Tower, colloquially known as Big Ben. As part of Barry's reconstruction, he enlisted the help of Augustus Pugin in applying a Gothic language to the entire project. The clock tower represents Pugin's final and most widely recognized work. Each of the four clock faces are 23 ft in diameter. Contained within the tower is the second largest four-faced chiming clock in the world. The largest of the bells, known as the Great Bell, has been in use since 1858. Several theories argue whether the bell was named in honor of Sir Benjamin Hall or Benjamin Caunt. This debate has led to the bell's and the tower's nickname of Big Ben.
The palace has undergone numerous restorations and reconstructions since its nineteenth century reconstruction. The most extensive of these efforts were due to damage sustained during The Blitz of World War II. The complex sustained damage from bombs on fourteen separate occasions, the worst of which took place on the night of May 10, 1941 when incendiary bombs set both the House of Commons and Westminster Hall on fire. While the fires in the hall were extinguished, the House of Commons burned to the ground and was rebuilt over the next few years.
New Palace Yard located between Elizabeth Tower (left) and Westminster Hall (right). New Palace Yard is a restricted-access, landscaped courtyard that features a ramp to underground parking that was installed during the 1970s.
Westminster Hall is the oldest remaining building in the Palace of Westminster. Built in 1097, the hall has the longest clearspan medieval roof in England. Westminster Hall was initially used for judicial purposes, holding the trials of notable figures including King Charles I, William Wallace and Guy Fawkes. It has also been used ceremoniously for banquets and the rare formal addresses given to both houses by key leaders. Since World War II, the only world leaders to have addressed both houses in Westminster Hall have been French President Charles de Gaulle in 1960, South African President Nelson Mandela in 1996, Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, US President Barack Obama in 2011, and Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 2012.
Westminster Hall sits slightly askew from the orthogonal layout of the newer palace. Managing this slight displacement was quite challenging to integrate with the base of the model. One of the aesthetic considerations I implemented with the design of the hall was the use of much more platonic LEGO« elements (bricks, arches & slopes) in order to distinguish its Medieval likeness from the Neo Gothic style of the rest of the complex.
A view of the south entrance of Westminster Hall.
An overhead view shows the angle at which Westminster Hall and various attached courtyards sit relative to the rest of the complex. The courtyard situated between the hall and Abingdon St is known as Cromwell Green, where the bronze statue of Olver Cromwell was erected in 1899.
The Central Tower is an octagonal spire situated over the middle of the overall building. At 299 ft, it is also the shortest of the three towers. While the appearance is very much a formal presence, its initial purpose was much more functionally-oriented as it would serve as a ventilation shaft four hundreds of fires throughout the palace. The design of the Central Tower in the model uses cues from the design of the upper floors of my Tribune Tower model, specifically, the octagonal basket-weave of the technic liftarms and bars.
The tallest of the three towers, Victoria Tower, is situated at the south end of Old Palace Yard in the southwest corner of the complex. At 323 ft, it is only slightly taller than Elizabeth Tower. Though less famous than its counterpart, Victoria Tower is arguably the most conspicuously-designed of the three. With heavy, rounded corners and dramatic arched entryways and windows, it is visually the most pronounced aspect of the complex.
Similar to the statement the actual tower makes in comparison with the rest of the palace, I strove for a similar effect in my model. The design incorporates numerous transitions between outward-facing, inward-facing, upside-down and straight-up building techniques. While these arrangements do not allow for continuous internal connection, the corner stair support elements, keep everything in place and are bound in a 5x5 frame at the top, where I utilize a myriad of technic elements. Overall, I find the composition quite striking, with the Union Jack flag from set 8639 giving the finishing touch to the verticality of the entire model!
The SNOT design of the River Front fašade proved to be quite replicable along the entire exterior frontage of the model. Using 1x2 plates with attached bar helped inform the overall proportions throughout the complex, while allowing for a rhythmic language that could be applied to any length of corridors between the main towers.
An aerial view reveals the detail within the interior of the model. While the actual Palace of Westminster has fourteen interior courtyards, my model features thirteen. For the sake of visual clarity and in an effort to emphasize the architectural quality, I have omitted much of the HVAC equipment that has been installed in the courtyards.
A view from the Thames of the River Front fašade. To name jut a few prevalent elements, this model uses 127 1x2 plate with attached bar, 111 technic pin/axles, 34 stair supports, 121 1x2 double slope roof bricks, and 406 1x1 round plates. In an effort to avoid using 1x2 grill tiles for much of the vertical delineation, I have managed to use only 68 throughout this model!
A plan-perspective view shows each courtyard more clearly. An intersting fact about Barry's and Pugin's contributions is that Barry was more so responsible for the Classical style layout and symmetry of the new buildings, while Pugin was much more responsible for the Gothic ornamentation throughout. This model also features a new method (for me anyway) of headlight brick usage, as you can see in the modeling of windows in the courtyard interiors.
A closeup of the fašade.
The road on the bridge leading to The Palace of Westminster is known as Westminster Bridge Rd.
One final look at Big Ben. The driving force behind the design of Elizabeth Tower was to pronounce the vertical delineation of the tower section in a way that did not utilize grill tiles, as so many models before this have. Instead, I have opted for the use of 1x2 jumper plates and their underside grooves to accomplish this nuance. I also took it upon myself to have the faces of Big Ben printed on 2x2 pearl gold tiles, rather than using LEGO«'s 2x2 round clock tile. The printing was masterfully executed by the folks over at Brickprinter!
Quoting Chris Tine
Do you know why that large two-towered section is not lit up at night? What's in there?
I believe you're referring to the pair of parapets on either side of the River Front? My guess is that since those are right on the water, there simply isn't any ground beneath them to place flood lights.