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ISSUE 65(FREE READ)

Parliament with a View

On December 1, 2015, an agreement was inked between the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Zimbabwe, stipulating China’s commitment to grant funds for the construction of the new Parliament Building. Simultaneously, Zimbabwe pledged financial support for the project. The tender for the project was awarded to the Shanghai Construction Group Company Limited. Originally valued at around USD140 million, its estimated value in September 2023 was reported to be approximately USD200 million.

Commencing in 2018, construction was initially projected for completion in March 2021. However, the timeline faced setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The fully furnished parliament building complex was officially handed over by a Chinese government delegation to the government of Zimbabwe on October 26, 2023. President Emmerson Mnangagwa received the building on behalf of the government and the nation.

The six-story structure accommodates both the upper and lower houses of Parliament. Within this high-rise building, the parliamentary chambers can host up to 650 legislators, providing space for their offices, conference rooms, and meeting areas. The entire complex comprises approximately 33,000 square metres.

Situated approximately 20 kilometres from the former parliament building in the central business district, the site is set on a mountain. This natural landmark ascends 70 meters above the adjacent area, providing a sweeping panoramic view of the surroundings.

The architectural design of the building takes into account the terrain and local conditions. The blueprints were crafted to harmonize with the topography, climate, and human conditions, aiming for a seamless integration between the constructed environment and nature.

The external space exhibits a harmonious blend of traditional and contemporary design elements, creating a captivating fusion that seamlessly merges the timeless appeal of classical aesthetics with the sleek sophistication of modern architecture.

The design incorporates three-dimensional forms and locally sourced materials, particularly prestigious granite in polished and unpolished variations. Indigenous trees and shrubs integrate the building into the Zimbabwean landscape. Artwork and decorative elements portray aspects of Zimbabwean life and culture, contributing to a unique indigenous structure that embodies proud and authentic Zimbabwean architecture.

At the heart of the design is the ‘Chamber of the House,’ serving as the central focal point. The hierarchical status is visually conveyed by elevating the upper chamber or Senate to a level above that of the Lower House.

Designed to accommodate various groups, the interior spaces boast a functional layout that facilitates seamless coordination of activities, ensuring uninterrupted workflow through meticulously organized flow lines. The symmetrical combination of east and west access is elevated by the natural topography leading to the conference area. Grandeur is achieved with cascading stairs and a water feature, creating a majestic and revitalising ambiance that highlights natural elements in the surroundings.

The building encompasses communal spaces, second chambers, a general assembly, a senate, a multi-purpose hall, lounges, committee rooms, meeting rooms, a public conference area, VVIP and VIP areas, an administrative department, as well as spaces for the general public and press, and indoor parking.

Within the special services section, a cluster of purpose-designed spaces enhances the functionality and prestige of the building. This section comprises the distinguished Senate chamber, where legislative discussions take centre stage, the representative chamber that serves as a focal point for elected officials, the Senate conference room facilitating crucial deliberations, and lounges providing conducive spaces for networking and informal discussions among esteemed representatives.
Each chamber segment is designed to accommodate both the public and the press, complemented by additional functional rooms situated to the north of the Senate.

The interior design exudes an air of dignity, offering a spacious and modern feel that caters to the individual needs of every legislator. Each corner of the space is thoughtfully crafted to ensure not only a visually appealing environment but also one that provides ample space and comfort, creating an atmosphere conducive to focused legislative work. The design elements seamlessly combine to enhance both the visual appeal and the functional aspects, fostering an environment where legislators can engage in their duties with ease and comfort.

Situated to the south, the special committee rooms are purposefully designed spaces catering to focused deliberations and specialised discussions. Complementing this arrangement, the northern section houses expansive auxiliary rooms, providing versatile spaces for various supportive functions and additional operational needs. This considerate distribution of rooms ensured a comprehensive and well-organised layout within the building.

Administrative departments occupy the spaces between the first and fourth stories, while the VIP area is situated on the fifth floor, and the VVIP area is located on the sixth floor.

The basement is strategically structured to accommodate fire control rooms, equipment rooms, a generously sized parking bay and various other functional spaces.

The comprehensive transportation system, both horizontally and vertically throughout the entire building, is tailored to meet the distinct requirements of various user groups. The design prioritises the creation of comfortable and easily accessible traffic flow lines within the structure.

Beyond its functional purpose, the new Parliament building is the embodiment of architectural artistry. The blend of traditional and modern elements, the integration with the natural landscape, and the attention to detail come together to create a space that is both inspiring and functional.

Text by Perry Kaande

 

 

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