Of course the UN General Assembly Hall is recognizable, but what does its semi-circle shape mean? Apparently, its one of the oldest–and a neoclassical go to for fostering consensus and democratic engagement.
The architecture of a legislative body tells a lot about how governance works in each respective body. A new book by Max Cohen de Lara and David Mulder van der Vegt explains, including their methodology:
To answer that question, we spent six years collecting the architectural layout for each one of those buildings. We’ve published our findings in our book “Parliament.” By comparing these plans in detail, we wanted to understand how a political culture is both shaped by and expressed through architecture. Organized as a lexicon, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, the book for the first time allows a comparison of all national parliaments in the world.We found a clear pattern. Although each of the 193 United Nations member states has a parliament of some kind — albeit with varying degrees of democracy — their plenary chambers have a very limited number of shapes. Most surprisingly, these buildings have hardly changed since the 19th century.
Also, don’t miss the website for the book, Parliament, to see schematics of a number of UN Member State’s legislative body, and even the UN in Geneva and interactive photos, facts, and more. Great stuff for policy geeks, parliamentarians, and designers interested in civic engagement and proxemics.