The Unbuilt Parliament: British Colonial Plans for a Legislative Assembly in Jerusalem
British Mandate Palestine
legislative assembly
architectural history
urban planning
Austen St. Barbe Harrison
Arab Revolt
colonial architecture

The deliberations over the establishment of a legislative assembly in Mandatory Palestine have long been dismissed by the historiography as one of many failed ideas of the Mandate. Yet the legislative assembly was not a mere concept thrown around in pointless rounds of negotiations; it was also an architectural project that came remarkably close to being built, involving several plots of land in Jerusalem, countless architectural drawings, and clay models, designed primarily by the Mandate’s celebrated architect Austen St. Barbe Harrison. The legislative assembly chamber was, as of the early 1930s, a central element in the design of the central government offices – the most ambitious unfulfilled scheme of the British Mandatory Palestine government in Jerusalem, aiming to accommodate all executive and legislative bodies in a single building. The deliberations over the scheme remained restricted to the top echelons of the Palestine government, with no involvement of Arab Palestinians or Jews. The project, which was derailed and revived several times in the 1930s and 1940s, was finally abandoned only in early November 1947. The project and its design throw new light on colonial state-making in Palestine and its flaws.

Author biography: 

Yair Wallach is a reader in Israeli studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, specializing in the social and cultural history of modern Palestine/Israel.

Julio Moreno Cirujano is a PhD candidate at SOAS, writing his dissertation on colonial material culture during the British Mandate in Palestine.