So some good soul has compiled together a picture gallery of all of the European legislative chambers, you can find the original here. This has inevitably ended up in Twitter arguments between correct people and the idiots who think hemicycle debating chambers are a good thing. Now because I have too much time on my hands I figured I would rank them. All of them. This took my entire afternoon.
67. Germany – Bundestag
How they managed to make a chamber so utterly dull it could manage to suck the life out of a Dennis Skinner v. Jacob Rees-Mogg debate on inheritance tax in one of the world’s most iconic buildings I do not know. But the Germans did it.
66. Belarus – Council of the Republic
This isn’t a Parliamentary Chamber, it’s the set of WarGames.
65. Bosnia Herzegovina – House of Peoples
Underlining the fact that Bosnia-Herzegovina isn’t a real country this looks like an EU or UN meeting room at best, and that of a university’s new build at worst.
64. Slovenia – National Council
I genuinely think this is one of my lecture theatres.
Oh Estonia. I like you Estonia. Tallinn is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But this isn’t a Parliament it’s a classroom.
Not only is the chamber of Montenegro’s Parliament cramped, but the building it’s in genuinely looks like a dirty block of flats.
61. Poland – Senate
If nothing else (and there really is nothing else) this also just looks awfully cramped.
60. Bosnia-Herzegovina – House of Representatives
It begins. The seemingly unending collection of boring, light wood, hemicycle chambers. Utterly devoid of life and charm. But what’s with the oppressively low ceiling?
Lithuania makes the ‘built from a kit’ Parliament look worse by having a flag tackily on the wall.
58. Slovenia – National Assembly
You know what’s worse than a hemicycle? A full circle.
Micro-states don’t even really count.
56. Netherlands – Second Chamber
The Netherlands gets docked points for two reasons: Naming their Lower House the Second Chamber, and their First Chamber easily proving that they can do better than this.
Not only does the Scottish Parliament use a boring light wood hemicycle, but it also loses point because the Holyrood building itself is absolutely hideous.
54. Germany – Bundesrat
Not even kidding, I genuinely think the European Parliament drawing the bulk of its inspiration from the Germans is why the British hate it so much.
In line with national stereotypes it looks like an Ikea. Nobody ever had an impassioned political argument in an Ikea. And I am now going to have to travel to Leeds to prove my point.
I’m losing the will to live.
Do you reckon they all get these from the same supplier?
When your actual coat of arms isn’t very good I suppose there’s only so far you can go.
Like at this point you’re just admitting you lack originality as a country.
Another circle, but gains point because the Senedd is a nice building. Even if it leaks.
47. Austria – National Council
Austrians, if you want people to stop saying you’re Germans, try making an original chamber.
Liechtenstein’s chamber is really weird, it’s arranged in a circular ‘Doctor Strangelove’ configuration, and genuinely is contained within a building that reminds me of the Stonecutters’ Temple from the Simpsons. Nevertheless it’s certainly unique.
45. Ireland – Senate
Let’s be honest, this could be a room in pretty much any stately home. But at least it’s a nice room.
44. Czech Republic – Senate
Okay this doesn’t look like my lecture hall, but I’m sure it would for somebody at Oxbridge.
I don’t like this, but it gets bonus points for looking like it would suit SPECTRE.
42. Russia – State Duma
We know the Soviets can produce good architecture, so why has the State Duma ripped off Europe’s Parliaments and not the Moscow Metro? At least the White House itself looks quite good.
41. Russia – Federation Council
The Soviet ones are all a bit dull, but I do like the pale yellow.
Yes Latvia’s Parliament looks a bit like a British council chamber, but it would make a perfectly fine council chamber. Which is about the best you can expect I guess. They’ve beaten the other Baltic States by a mile.
Moldova is the poorest country in Europe, and they’ve managed this very nice ceiling design. If you’re a large country below this point on the list you should hang your heads in shame.
37. Poland – Sejm
I don’t think this colour scheme quite works, but it’s interesting at least. Very large room too.
Again this would make a very nice British council chamber. But it’s held within a very beautiful building.
35. Czech Republic – Chamber of Deputies
Quite a nice room, but what on Earth is that seating arrangement?
34. Switzerland – National Council
This is a perfectly respectable, grand even, lower chamber. Except that painting does look a bit DPRK-ish. Sorry Switzerland.
I should dislike this. But the way the very light wood and red reflects the Georgian flag pleases me, and they’ve managed to be the only country to do the ‘big flag on a wall’ thing without it looking too tacky.
Reasonable room, about as good a seating arrangement as you’re going to get in Europe. Passable.
Nothing spectacular, but some nice panelling and the arch makes the room suitably grand.
Large room, nice pillars, good colours, and Albania has a nice coat of arms.
Suitably large room, nice pattern on the wall, and the inset is nice.
Manages to be light and airy without being Ikea-ish. Not a hemicycle.
27. Belarus – Chamber of Representatives
In line with Alexander Lukashenko’s ability to freeze time this Chamber looks exactly the same as I imagine it did in 1987. Still the best of the ex-Soviet ones.
It looks a bit more like a Sushi restaurant than a Parliament. Yet it weirdly works?
25. San Marino
Yes this is also a council chamber, but the micro-state has shown some actual countries how you bloody do it.
Like Georgia, but the white and red is even more striking. It has a flower bed in the middle of it, which is unique.
23. Switzerland – Council of States
Solid ornate chamber, could do with being a bit longer though. Looks somewhat cramped.
22. Romania – Chamber of Deputies
You have to respect its immense size if nothing else.
Small as you’d expect, but still fairly regal. Good seating arrangement. Loses points for its low ceiling.
Manages to be plain, yet simultaneously grand.
19. Ireland – Dáil Éireann
Semi-adversarial chamber. Modelled on the Commons, which is clearly the right thing to do. Bit plain though.
The first of the chambers to aim for Imperial splendour. Doesn’t quite manage to pull it off though. At least they tried.
Grand, ornate, and reflective of the finest of Greek architecture. The first on this list to truly get what being a Parliamentary chamber is about.
16. Spain – Senate
Grand and ornate, now we’re entering the big leagues.
15. Northern Ireland
But first a brief detour to Northern Ireland, where we see the Irish setup, but better.
14. Romania – Senate
Large, grand, and ornate. Proof if ever it were needed that the only people who can still make great Parliaments in the modern age are psychotic dictators.
The furniture might not be anything special, but that barely matters when surrounded by such outstanding masonry.
12. Spain – Congress of Deputies
Spain’s Chamber of Deputies has grandness, colour, intricate, detail, and is steeped in history.
11. Netherlands – First Chamber
One of the few European chambers with a good seating arrangement, and looks like it’s come straight from the era of the VoC.
10. Belgium – Chamber of Representatives
The Belgian Chamber of Representatives is plainer than many others this far up the list, but still suitably impressive.
9. France – Assemblée nationale
We’re getting into the stage now where it’s difficult to rate them against one another. The French National Assembly is immense and beautiful from every angle.
8. Italy – Senate
The Italian Senate has excellent woodwork and a rich colour.
7. Belgium – Senate
Looks more like a church than a Parliamentary chamber. The chairs in particular are excellent.
6. Italy – Chamber of Deputies
Okay, if you can’t tell by now my favourite colour is red. But c’mon that is magnificent.
The chamber may be good in of itself. But it’s also contained within the second most beautiful building in the world.
4. Austria – Bundesrat
Austria, when you can produce something as utterly stunning as this, how is your lower chamber so dreadfully dull?
3. France – Senate
Well here it is, officially the best hemicycle Parliamentary Chamber. You know what that means.
2. UK – House of Commons
Okay obviously national bias was going to win out here. But the Commons has politics so adversarial they have to demarcate the length of two swords. The despatch boxes. The mace. The bombed out entrance. Iconic.
1. UK – House of Lords
Does your chamber have a massive golden throne? No. Because it’s worse. Deal with it. What you don’t see in most videos from the Lords is the upper half and ceiling of the chamber, which is absolutely magnificent.
Well there we go. I’m fairly sure I’ve offended a few nations and I definitely spent more time on this than is healthy. I think the biting question we should all be asking ourselves is how are Empires and Communists so much better at building Parliaments than democracies?