Does the design of parliament buildings affect democracy?

Floor plan of seating in Bangladesh Parliament building showing a horseshoe cum circular design.In US politics we hear talk of ‘reaching across the aisle’. What if there was no aisle and everyone sat in a circle? It is well documented that spatial design affects mood and communication. Hospitals are designed to promote healing and airports to minimise stress. Research by architects asks if the design of our parliament buildings affects democracy. In a new book they look at the links between architecture and the political process.

Architecture firm XML examined as many of the 193 United Nations member states as they could and visited 15. Classroom style, horseshoes, opposing benches and semi-circles were most typical. The XML website has floor plans and 360 degree views.  Seems Bangladesh has a good model (floorplan pictured).

The authors say, “Once built, parliaments are locked in time, whereas political systems can and should adapt to what is changing in the world. It is necessary to rethink our models for collective decision-making but it seems to be incredible difficult. Architecture can be one of the ways to work and experiment with it.” There is a systematic lack of innovation in the spaces used by our elected leaders.

Some interesting points and 360 degree views of several buildings in the FastCompany article. Not mentioned in the article, but democracy is supposed to be an inclusive process. Title of the article is, The Subtle Way Government Architecture Shapes Governments Themselves.