Rounded democracy

Many legislative debating chambers have been designed and built in the past 50 years. Living in the UK, I’ve been able to travel to and see a number of them.

The National Assembly of Wales in Cardiff:
National Assembly of Wales

The Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh:
Scottish Parliament

The European Parliament in Brussels (and similarly in Strasbourg):
European Parliament

The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva:
UN Human Rights Council

Besides updated technology, what each of these chambers has in common is that their seats are arranged circularly – where members face one another with only the speaker (or equivalent moderator) sitting separately.

Contrast this with the Houses of Parliament at Westminster and similarly descended Houses (eg Parliament in Canada and the provincial legislatures), which are designed as adversarial “Government” vs “Opposition” formats.

While it’s not necessarily such that these rounded chambers will be any more conducive to friendly debate, I still think the symbolism is important. Beyond that, given the collapse of two-party systems in the UK and Canada, the adversarial style makes far less sense.

While these aren’t novel observations, it’s been good to see the different ways democratic governments can arrange their seats across Europe.