NEW RED HOUSE

Remodelled: A view of the Red House, Port of Spain, yesterday following the removal of the construction fencing this week. —Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

Knox Street is to be pedestrianised.

And the eternal flame and the First People’s monument will be landmark sites on this street.

These are among the new features of the restored Red House.

The eternal flame was created after the 1990 coup attempt to commemorate the lives lost in that insurgence, and to symbolise the need to be ever vigilant in the protection of the country’s democracy.

The newly remodelled site of the Red House was revealed on Wednesday when the construction fencing was taken down.

The Red House would be ­reserved for sittings of both chambers—the House and the Senate. For the first time the Senate would have a chamber of its own at the southern end of the upper floor of the Red House, which pre-Independence was the location of the Supreme Court, then referred to as the Hall of Justice.

Both houses having their independent chambers would be able to meet simultaneously for the first time.

The House of Representatives will retain what is the ­traditional chamber—the one used since ­Independence. Pre-Independence, it was called the Legislative Council chambers.

The Senate and House of Representatives chambers have different decor.

The Senate chamber ceiling is more modern, though dignified, and it was done by Colombian craftsmen. The House chamber maintains its traditional design, using the Speaker’s Chair, which was a gift from the Government of India.

The Senate gets a new dais, along with other furniture. Both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader would have offices in the Red House, which would also house the Members’ Dining Rooms and Hansard.

Public gallery

Both chambers have been re­designed to facilitate the seating of an increased numbers of members.

Making provision for increased numbers in the event this is a recommendation from the Elections and Boundaries Commission or for legislative changes in the composition, both chambers would have the capacity to accommodate a maximum of 60 members.

Currently there are 41 members of the House of Representatives and 31 senators.

The public gallery has been completely redesigned. It is now an upper gallery in the shape of a semi-circular pod perched above the members. The media are to be accommodated in the front of the pod.

The rotunda as it once stood no longer exists. There is now a lower rotunda to allow free movement of people, but it does not allow for movement to the upper floors of the building, as was the case with the old building.

The original restoration design done under the previous government allowed for an underground passageway to the original companion building which was to be situated at Knox Street and which incorporated the army building and Temple Court. That design was changed to a sky-walk to the new companion building, which is the Cabildo Building.

All Parliament Committee meetings will be held at this companion building, forming part of the Parliament Complex, which would also house the library, the Parliament Channel operations, Parliament gym, IT infrastructure and other ancillary services.

However, by the time the design had changed, the excavation for the underground passage had already begun and the finding of bones and artefacts necessitated a proper archaeological project, and this held up the Red House project for quite some time.

Under the UN Convention, the bones found had to be treated with respect and dignity, and the project was paused to deal with that.

On October 20, the remains of at least 60 of the country’s First Peoples were returned to their resting place at the Red House during an re-interment ceremony of indigenous human remains which had been removed in 2013 during the restoration project.

OPM, the client

The design of the Red House was done by architect Bernard Mackay in association with a foreign firm, Donald Insall Associates Ltd. The client for the project was the Office of the Prime Minister, the end user was the Parliament and the project manager was UDeCOTT.

The Red House restoration cost approximately $441 million. The Parliament is expected to occupy the Red House in January. Parliament and its ancillary services are currently occupying 13 floors of Tower D on the International Waterfront, which will be used to house the civil courts.

The Red House was originally built in 1844.

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