After a weekend of fun and fireworks, it’s important to remember that there is a great deal more to Bonfire night than extravagant displays, toffee apples and sparklers. We’re not here to talk about the religious, political and social history to the gunpowder plot, though! No, we want to talk about the importance of the building in all of this. It’s overlooked in popular folklore by the intrigue of the plot itself and the gory outcome for the unfortunate conspirators. The building, though, has its own story to tell.
Remember, remember, the fifth of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot;
I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
We agree – don’t forget about the importance of maintaining your building, or its future could be at risk!
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
‘Twas his intent.
To blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below.
Poor old England to overthrow.
It was as important in the plot to destroy the building as the head of state: bricks and mortar are integral to order whether you’re a country or a corporation!
The Houses of Parliament stand in London as a solid reminder of the strength of a governing institution. The fact that the plot was centred on exploding the House of Lords was more than just choosing a convenient space where the powerful were all convened; it was geared to destroy the bricks and mortar of the system, the symbol of an institution.
Buildings are important and influential symbols. The internal and external appearance of commercial, public or educational buildings loom all over the country as reflections of the institutions or corporations who exist within. Nowadays we might term this more as ‘branding’. The concepts are all rooted in the same place, though. So how valued are the symbols of your institution? By which we mean your bricks and mortar, the walls around your workers, the space in which they exist and work. Are they important enough to maintain? Of course, they are! Yet so often, maintenance and refurbishment programmes are put off for short-term cost saving, which really undervalues the importance of the building for the ongoing well-being of both workers and the business.
Why do we still celebrate Guy Fawkes Night today? Mainly it is the excuse to consume sugar coated fruit or boozy hot chocolates and to be entertained by bright lights and loud bangs! We don’t really think about the survival of, not just the King of England, but the institutional building of Parliament itself. However, it’s a topic which is now repeatedly cropping up in the news. It seems that the rulers of the country have fallen foul of the same bad habits that many building owners or tenants do: long-term neglect.
Four hundred years after the events that shocked London and the country, the gunpowder plot conspirators would surely appreciate the irony that, despite annually celebrating the defeat of the plot, the institutional powers of England have failed the building in question not once, but twice. The original building that the gunpowder plot sought to destroy went down in flames in 1843 after around fifty years of warnings that the building was at great risk of fire. Multiple architectural reports had been ignored. The new palace, built in the mid-nineteenth century is suffering a similar fate. A hundred and fifty years of neglect have left the Palace of Westminster a crumbling shadow, unsafe for workers and facing an extortionate refurbishment bill which is proving hard to put in place.
So if there’s a refurbishment lesson to be learnt here, it is this: wait enough years and it’ll simply fall down without due care and maintenance. We hope you had a good Guy Fawkes Night, and remember, remember to take care of your building!