The relationship between architecture and political culture is analysed through the architecture of the houses of the parliament and legislative chambers in countries. These structures preserve cultural values of the polity over time, articulate political attitudes and values, and contribute to the formation of the political culture. These structures occupy sacred sites and symbolize the state they are built-in whilst ensuring continuity of the political traditions. Architectural features like chambers, seating arrangement, aisles, spatial relationship with the other legislative structures are important aspects while designing to shape and manifest the political culture of the place it is built-in.

These structures depict grandeur and are meant to attract notice and bring a sense of authority and stability whilst embodying the image or commanding presence of the state. They evoke ideas of national identity, pride, and power and sometimes represent a national memory. Some of these structures are a fascinating mixture of both ancient and modern buildings and house an iconic collection of furnishings, archives, and works of art.

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Here are the 10 biggest Legislative buildings around the world:

1. The Pentagon, United States

Located in Arlington County, Virginia, The pentagon is the headquarters of the department of defense of the United States. Designed by George Bergstrom (1876–1955), it is the world’s largest office building. It includes a 5acre central plaza that is shaped like a pentagon to maximize the site’s odd dimensions. Each of the five wedges houses concentric rings of office spaces that are linked through corridors. 

The pentagonal plan layout as opposed to a rectangular or square layout helped in achieving easier access from one part of the structure to another. The structure is designed as a low-rise to prevent it from obstructing the view of the city across the Potomac River.

 

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2. Palace of the Parliament, Romania

Located on Dealul Arsenalului in central Bucharest, Romania is the Palace of the Parliament that houses the Parliament of Romania. It is 84m high and covers an area of 365,000 m2 and a volume of 2,550,000 m3 and is said to be the world’s largest administrative building. 

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The building is composed of 23 sections with ornate interiors and houses the Senate, the Chamber of Deputies, three museums, and an international conference centre. It has 8 underground levels, the last one being the anti-atomic bunker which is linked to the main state institutions by 20km of catacombs built to safeguard the people from the feared nuclear war.

Materials used are of Romanian origin like crystal chandeliers, ceiling lights, and mirrors, wood for parquet and wainscoting including walnut, oak, sweet cherry elm, sycamore maple, woollen carpets, marble, velvet, and brocade curtains adorned with embroideries and passementeries in silver and gold were used that emphasized grandeur in the structure.

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3. Hungarian Parliament | Budapest, Hungary

The grand neo-Gothic building with a Renaissance revival style dome located on the banks of the Danube river was built by architect Imre Steindl who has drawn inspiration from London’s Houses of Parliament. It is 268m long, 123m wide, and 96m high and is Budapest’s largest building and the third-largest parliament building in the world. It consists of 691 rooms, 10 courtyards, and 12.5miles worth of stairs. 

The building features are decorated with frescoes, statues, and stained glass decorations, and its form is shaped keeping in mind the symbolism and important historical and political messages it is needed to depict. The baroque floor plans and façade ornamentation evoke the Gothic sense; while the ceiling shows stylistic elements of the renaissance style. It has a symmetrical layout consisting of a dome that rises at the intersection of the main spaces that form a cross shape. Endless corridors link the rooms inside the structure.

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4. The Reichstag, Berlin

The Reichstag is situated at the northern end of the Ebertstrasse and near the south bank of the Spree River, with the Tiergarten park on its west side and Brandenburg Gate to the south. 

The Neo-Renaissance building has sustained damages from the bombings during World War II and its maintenance was neglected in the post-war year that led to further deterioration. The building’s most recognizable feature was the huge glass dome which provided panoramic views of the surrounding city when accessed by a spiral ramp from its interior. 

British architect Norman Foster reconstructed the Reichstag into a symbol of German unity and designed it to provide civic openness and parliamentary transparency. He exposed large parts of the building fabrics to create visual axes, abandoned the grandiosity and classical temple facades which gave a sense of lightness to the structure. He added contemporary glass elements and a modern glass dome to the roof of the building which radiates natural light down onto the debating chamber of the parliament below it.

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5. The Capitol, Washington D.C

Located on a plateau 88 feet above the level of the Potomac River, The Capitol commands a westward view across the U.S. Capitol Reflecting Pool to the Washington Monument 1.4 miles away and the Lincoln Memorial 2.2 miles away. 

For over two centuries it has housed the meeting chambers of the senate and the house of representatives.it is one of the finest examples of Neo-Classical architecture that combines functions with aesthetics with designs that are derived from ancient Greek and Rome. 

Covering a ground area of 175,170 square feet and a floor area of approximately 16-1/2 acres, it spans 751 feet and 4 inches in length in the north-south direction. It contains approximately 540 rooms and has 658 windows (108 in the dome alone) and approximately 850 doorways and is divided into five levels. 

The building has structural changes for restoration over the years of which one of the major architectural changes was the replacement of the old Bulfinch dome with a 287-foot- (87-metre-) high cast-iron dome.

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6. Palace of the Westminster, London

Lying on the north bank of the River Thames in the city of Westminster in central London is the Palace of Westminster. The Gothic-style building houses the House of Commons and the House of Lords that make up the parliament of the United Kingdom. The old palace was destroyed in a devastating fire that occurred in the year 1834. 

The reconstructed palace has sumptuous faces that have gilded pinnacles and statues of the English kings that get reflected in the Thames river. The Victoria tower that is 98m high is situated on the south-western end of the palace and the Big Ben is situated on the north-western end of it. Magnesian limestone was used in the stonework of the palace which decayed over the years due to its poor quality and climatic conditions of the site.

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7. Houses of Parliaments, Cape Town

The House of Parliament situated in South Africa incorporates features of Cape Dutch architecture. Designed in Neo-Classical style consists of three main sections: the original and the two new additions. It houses a Parliament library which consists of a central dome and Corinthian porticoes and pavilions. 

The front of the building faces Parliament street and is nestled in the VOC Company gardens in the middle of Cape Town. Victorian Baroque component materials used in the structure were brought from England and to depict dignity all the outer casing of classical revivalism – Corinthian columns, entablatures, cornices, metalwork, balustrade were designed in the structure.

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8. Beehive, Wellington, New Zealand

The New Zealand Parliament Buildings have their executive wings in the Beehive in Wellington. The form of the building is that of a traditional woven form of a beehive. Sir Basil Spence provided the original conceptual design of the structure. The building is 42m high and goes four floors deep below the ground. 

Materials like a marble floor, stainless steel mesh wall panels, translucent glass are used in the interiors. Twenty tonnes of hand-welted and seamed copper is used in the beehive’s brown roof.it is a bold example of brutalist architecture that consists of quality of finishes, artworks, materials, and workmanship that gives it a high architectural and aesthetic value.

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9. Central Block, Ottawa 

It is the main building of the Canadian parliamentary complex in Ontario the houses the house of commons and the senate chambers and consists of offices for the members of parliament and senior administration of both the legislative houses. 

Built-in Gothic Revival style of architecture the building has several ceremonial spaces like the Hall of honour, the Memorial Chamber, and the confederation Hall. The building is aligned symmetrically around the confederation hall that is located right after the main entrance. 

The structure is an octagonal chamber that is divided by limestone clustered columns into eight bays that are subdivided by green syenite pillars and between these runs are ambulatory paths that support the upper gallery area. Arcaded arches, sculpted gables, fan-vaulted ceiling, carved bosses, sculpted mythical creatures that are stone-carved to make up the intricate details of the interiors of the structure.

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10. Sansad Bhavan, New Delhi 

The Sansad Bhavan is a British era building that houses the bicameral parliament of India. It was built by famous architects Sir Edward Lutyens and Herbert Baker who have also worked on the planning and construction of New Delhi. 

The building has a circular perimeter with 144 columns on the outside and is surrounded by large gardens and has used Indian symbolism like chajjas, jails that remind ancient Indian craftsmanship. The circular edifice of the Central Hall is the main focus of the building which radiates out into three axes into the chambers for the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and the library hall.

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Author

Ruchika is an architecture student who believes there’s no end to knowledge as it is not a book or an examination that defines its extent rather it is a process that you go through from the moment you are born to the moment you die. She loves to read books and is an art enthusiast. She is open to new ideas and stands up for what she believes in. She is currently working at an NGO that is working continuously with ever-increasing energy and enthusiasm for Community Development especially of the marginalized people.

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