In a time in which democracy is under increasing pressure, Amsterdam based architecture office XML initiated a research into worldwide spaces of political congregation. The resulting book PARLIAMENT explores the double-sided relationship between space and politics by documenting and comparing the plenary halls of the parliaments of all 193 United Nations member states. In parallel to the book, XML has also launched the website www.parliamentbook.com that allows a virtual 360-view into a number of parliaments that the office has visited and documented.
Parliament is the space where politics literally takes shape. Here, collective decisions take form in a specific setting where relationships between political actors are organized through architecture. The architecture of spaces of political congregation is not only an abstract expression of a political culture, it also shapes this culture.
PARLIAMENT explores this double-sided relationship between space and politics by documenting and comparing the plenary halls of the parliaments of all 193 United Nations member states. Almost like a manual archive, the book documents the rooms in the same style and scale and also provides key data and the assembly hall’s location within the larger parliament building. Organized as a lexicon, the book allows for the first time comparison of all 193 national parliaments in the world.
The book shows how out of comparing all 193 parliaments a pattern emerges. Despite major differences between countries, cultures and traditions, an incredibly limited number of typologies appears for the shape of the general assembly hall. There are only five types of settings, which are explored in detail in the book. Most of these typologies have been invented in the 19th century and have hardly changed ever since. While the world outside the walls of parliaments changed beyond recognition, the setting of its halls remained in the past.
By comparing settings between East and West, North and South, democratic and authoritarian regimes, PARLIAMENT addresses the plenary hall of parliaments as more than mere ornamental, symbolic representation of national values. The book rethinks the role of architecture in shaping political culture and the future of our societies.
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