A fine model of lavatorial splendour

7th July 2006 at 01:00
This torrid week, the Diary has been keeping cool in Portcullis House, the strange parliamentary building on the Embankment, listening to MPs hear evidence on sustainable schools. Here, all is peace and light, from the glassy atrium with its dripping water and fig trees, to the deep, deep calm of the vast committee rooms.

Portcullis House also has wonderful loos. Design guru John Sorrell told MPs he thought schools should have toilets just as good. To which the Diary can only say: what an excellent idea. But is it, er, sustainable?

The oak doors to the Ladies are so tall and solid it takes two strong women to push them open - and the partitions between them exclude all sound and certainly exclude all peeping. But at a cost. Portcullis House was one of the most expensive public buildings ever, finished in August 2000 at a cost of pound;234m. Even allowing for inflation, it was nearly pound;30m over budget. Architects said it would have been cheaper to coat the facade with 7-series BMWs than the bronze that was used.

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