What do your buildings have to say for themselves?

Hellenic Parliament

Does the architecture of the rooms that are use by deliberative bodies (Parliaments, Senates, House of Deputies etc of various countries tell us anything about the national aspirations, political direction, or psyche of a nation?

My curiosity in this theme originated from reading the history of post-1830 Athens. In 1830 Athens was destined to be the capital of the just barely sovereign nation of Greece. Having never really been a country per se – the history of the Hellenes is chock full of small Greek speaking kingdoms and city states here, there and everywhere, and an area occupied by foreign powers Persians, Romans, Ottomans – what did the Greeks think of themselves and what was their concept of national identity?

With a national consciousness still fermenting, in 1835 a Bavarian prince was installed in Athens as King Otto of the Hellenes and the physical representation of the city began to take on the look of what Western European architects thought should reflect the aspirations and identity of the Greek people… the Classical Period 400 BCE !

The Greek Parliament was formed only in 1843 after an uprising forced the king to give up absolute power and grant his subjects a constitution. Parliament convened in its own building (French designed) in 1871.

Greece (old Parliamentary House) -1858

The Venizelos government moved the Hellenic Parliament into the Royal Palace in 1932 after renovations by Greek architect Andreas Kliezos.

With that question of national psyche in mind, I have lined up photos of the deliberation halls of (almost) each European country. In countries with a bicameral system (upper and lower houses) the larger of the two is shown.

Switzerland is represented and Germany has three (West, East, and today).
The European Parliaments in Strasbourg and Brussels are also thrown in.

Certainly someone had to design each space and most likely a group of people had to approve the design in order to fund the project. Individuals in that group might have divergent ideas about the representation.

Many interior spaces in the slideshow refer to some great and lost history and indeed some of the buildings are renovated historical relics. Remembering a great past seems to be a common theme though there are exceptions.

Due to the destruction caused by WWII some European parliament buildings needed rebuilding and some reflect a “design by committee” in which the result is a very neutral space (bland) with very little historical reference. Sometimes “modernity” is a theme used to indicate a progressive outlook. Sometimes “modernity” is simply efficient. Malta has the newest building (2015) which was designed by Renzo Piano.

The slideshow (39 images) includes dates of most recent renovations. Corrections happily accepted!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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