Does design of parliament buildings affect democracy?

Does the design of parliament buildings affect democracy? An interesting question. It’s often said that the design of our environment affects our behaviours. So would that apply to houses of parliament as well?

Floor plan of seating in Bangladesh Parliament building showing a horseshoe cum circular design.
Floor plan of seating in Bangladesh Parliament House

In US politics we hear talk of ‘reaching across the aisle’. What if there was no aisle and everyone sat in a circle? We know that spatial design affects mood and communication. Hospitals are designed to promote healing and airports to minimise stress. Research by an architecture firm in Amsterdam took a 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 as a preface to the book.  Seems Bangladesh has a good parliament building 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 incredibly 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 if you have access. The title of the article is, The Subtle Way Government Architecture Shapes Governments Themselves.

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