For a long time, political architecture has been tied to the shared ideals of a country. Government architecture is a unique design aiming to reflect regional aspirations, including various deliberative, consultative and judicial assemblies. The modern equivalent of government architecture dates back to tribalism. Some ties extend from ancient India to Mesopotamia, both places where some governing structure existed. Usually, there are three functions the government performs: law-making, representing the electorate, and ensuring the government’s functionality. Designing architecture of government is now being reimagined to reflect contemporary life by exploring new design ideas.

Designing architecture for the government: what is necessary? - Sheet1
National Parliament of Liechtenstein_©Jürg Zürcher

Governments worldwide have developed some of the most exemplary architecture, from palaces to courthouses. However, these aren’t all they create— libraries, city halls, and executive mansions are some more examples. These buildings are essential for people’s political and cultural personalities. Government buildings can bring citizens together while telling visitors a visual story. It is a common misconception that civic buildings should be bare and purely functional. However, government buildings can be a work of art with the correct architectural expression.


Sami Cultural Centre Sajos, Finland | Designing Architecture

Designing architecture for the government: what is necessary? - Sheet5
Sami Cultural Centre Sajos_©Mika Huisman

In Inari, Finland, the Sami Cultural Centre Sajos is the administrative and cultural centre for the Sámi, the only indigenous community in the European Union. Each wing serves a separate function, leaving enough space for a lobby in the centre. The entrance is strongly characterised by large, round volumes of the auditorium and the parliament hall. There are eight distinct organisations at work in the building.

New German Parliament, Reichstag

The modification of the Reichstag is embedded in four issues: the significance of the Bundestag as a democratic forum, understanding the history, commitment to accessibility and a robust environmental agenda. The Reichstag was affected by war and insensitive rebuilding. This retrofit project takes cues from the original fabric, peeling away history’s layers to reveal the unique blueprints of the past— Russian graffiti and stonemason’s marks. Even today, these imperfections have been preserved—an uncommon feat for federal buildings— as a ‘living museum’. 

Designing architecture for the government: what is necessary? - Sheet6
New German Parliament, Reichstag_©Matthew Field

The Great Hall of the People, China | Designing Architecture

Designing architecture for the government: what is necessary? - Sheet7
The Great Hall of the People_©Huang Keli

The Great Hall of the People is a modern structure in China that has absorbed Chinese and foreign architectural influences and presents a distinct style. Since its inauguration, the Great Hall has served as a critical venue for state affairs and diplomatic activities. Many major historical events have taken place here, having changed the development course of China. Symbolising the pride and dignity of the citizens, the Great Hall of the People represents the political, economic and cultural aspects of the country. Today, the Hall has commanded the admiration and respect of Chinese people, naturally attracting worldwide attention. 

Building Character of Government Structures

It is often said that a well-designed building has character. This can be communicated through various design aspects, like: 

The Implied Character | Designing Architecture

The implied character concerns itself with the building’s design elements, signalling the structure’s purpose. These elements, along with their implied meanings, often have a cultural notion, some being used for millennia. An example of implied character is the use of a Cross at the entrance of Christian buildings, indicating the religious leaning of the users. 

White House_©Orhan Cam
White House_©Orhan Cam

Greek architecture is becoming increasingly prominent in federal structures, featuring Greek-style columns and grand marble statues. These design elements were selected due to their cultural association with social governance. Details included in government structures should communicate the message that the building and the government want to ensure the implied character’s importance. 

The Functional Character

The functional character is a straightforward concept. A building is made for a specific reason, and the design is done only to support it and communicate the building’s purpose. For example, tall, long walls with well-spaced windows characterise a museum. Public facilities usually have a large block in the centre with a broad entrance, giving the feeling of balance. 

Valetta City Gate_©Michel Denancé
Valetta City Gate_©Michel Denancé

Various design strategies can be implemented to highlight a building’s functionality. For example, a skylight can maximise natural lighting in a space where large gatherings are likely to occur. The building’s purpose dictates the functional design and, thus, makes it easier to understand. Even though it’s regarded as simple, it is a crucial part of the building’s character.

The Aesthetic Character

Considered the most subjective and artistic aspect of a structure, the aesthetic character can communicate what is actually meant to be perceived through the right message. Like a person, a building has a personality— graceful, solid, worn, or dainty. For example, a Parliament is a solid foundation for a community to rely on while being considered a place where the general public can be heard.

Parlement Francophone Bruxellois_©Georges de Kinder
Parlement Francophone Bruxellois_©Georges de Kinder

Secretariat Building, India | Designing Architecture

Secretariat Building_©Amit KG
Secretariat Building_©Amit KG

This classic architecture example is home to the Indian Cabinet Secretariat. Built in 1910 by British architect Herbert Baker in Delhi, the structure sits on Raisina Hill. It consists of two symmetrical blocks on opposite sides of the Rajpath. Constructed out of rose and yellow sandstone, the building has a distinctive colour. 

  1. Online sources

Citations for websites:

Eric Baldwin (2022). Parliaments of the World: Designing the Architecture of Government. [online]. Available at: [Accessed 27 September 2022].

Bill Whittaker (2018). An Architects View: Government Buildings. [online]. Available at: [Accessed 27 September 2022].

Beau Peregoy (2016). 9 Government Buildings that Teach Valuable Lessons in Design. Available at: [Accessed 27 September 2022].

National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China (n.d.). The Great Hall of the People. Available at: [Accessed 01 October 2022].

Jim Stewart (n.d.). 25 Government Buildings You Need to See. Available at: [Accessed 01 October 2022].

  1. Images/visual mediums

Citations for images/photographs – Print or Online:

Zürcher, J. (2011). National Parliament of Liechtenstein. [Photograph].

Cam, O. (2020). White House. [Photograph].

Denancé, M. (2015). Valetta City Gate. [Photograph].

De Kinder, G. (2014). Parlement Francophone Bruxellois. [Photograph]. 

Huisman, M. (2012). Sami Cultural Centre Sajos. [Photograph].

Field, M. (2019). New German Parliament, Reichstag. [Photograph].

Keli, H. (2020). Great Hall of the People. [Photograph].

KG, A. (2020). Secretariat Building. [Photograph].


Kaavya Azad is an architecture student passionate about creating sensory harmony and connecting with nature in her designs. Her keen interest in reading, writing and researching led her to venture into Architectural Journalism. You can find her reading books surrounded by her favourite snacks when she isn't working.