The new Zimbabwe Parliament Building is being developed on an area of 50.000m2 in Mount Hampden, approximately 18km northwest of the South African country’s capital, Harare.
Contracted to Shanghai Construction Group, upon completion, the imposing six-storey building will accommodate joint sittings of the senate and the national assembly. The two chambers will have extra facilities such as two conference centers each with a capacity to accommodate 350 people, a banquet hall capable of accommodating 1,000 people, offices for parliamentary officers, and many boardrooms for parliamentary committee sessions as well as a parking space.
The US$ 140m projects’ architectural design borrows heavily from the country’s traditional setting, city plans such as Dhlo Dhlo, and Great Zimbabwe.
An overview of the design of the building
As in traditional settings, the central focal point where the important issues of rural life were and still are debated will be the meeting place or the Chamber of the House in the new Zimbabwe parliament building. The level of the upper chamber or Senate is placed at a level above that of the Lower House depicting hierarchical status and just as in the traditional setting, both chambers are placed where quiet and parliamentary `sanctity’ will prevail.
Around this core (Chamber of the House) will be the Committee Rooms, Ministerial Offices, Secretariats, and other ancillary offices, replicating the stratification of village homesteads where houses/huts are built or located according to the social status of the occupant. The first wife’s hut is normally built near the center of the homestead and huts of the herd’s men/boys at the outer circumference.
The gracious curve of the main entrance to the Great Enclosure at Great Zimbabwe, together with the rising change of level has been evoked in the powerful entry statement conceptualized for the Parliament. The surrounding wall of the traditional village is captured in the strong enclosure statement of the high walls required by the nature of the new site. Also, if you analyze the siting of important traditional spaces you will notice that these were positioned on prominent hilltops so that the surrounding area is dominated by the presence of the massed structures.
In regards to the city planning, just as with Naletale and the Temple Complex of Great Zimbabwe, to enter the parliament complex one will have to follow a circular route around the structure until the main axial approach is reached at the entrance level.
Three-dimensional form and use of materials further emphasize the paramount indigenous concepts of the parliament building. Prestigious local materials such as granite in the polished and unpolished form are envisaged and the planting of indigenous trees and shrubs to place the building in a totally Zimbabwean setting. Artwork and decorative elements are also proposed to illustrate aspects of Zimbabwean life and culture.
All elements were directed to a final overall concept of a truly unique native structure that can be proudly and truly Zimbabwean in every aspect.