Satellite Projects
Parliament Buildings
Sophia Psarra, Uta Staiger, Claudia Sternberg
Project description

Conference | Bartlett School of Architecture + European Institute, UCL | funded by UCL Grand Challenges

In the face of ongoing political, social and economic changes, confidence in democracy is waning – calling upon us to rethink our political institutions and the buildings in which they are accommodated. From Churchill’s claim ‘we shape our buildings thereafter they shape us’ to Mitterand’s belief that ‘there is no great politics without great architecture’, parliamentary buildings are widely recognized as the symbols and instruments of political life. Their architecture, history and rituals say a lot about ideas of legitimacy, norms of governance and behaviour. With the wide adoption of television coverage and social media, these buildings project political culture outwards even more, changing the scale and speed of communication between the parliament and the public. Parliament Buildings is a two-part conference (and a book) exploring the architecture of power, accountability and democracy in parliaments in Europe and beyond. It is a multi-disciplinary event, addressing questions such as: how parliaments are shaped by their buildings; how politics are played out in space; how gender, agency and public accessibility operate in parliaments; how front stage and back stage politics take place in these buildings, how media and digital interactions shape legislatures, among others.


Sophia Psarra is Professor and Director of the PhD architectural and urban history+theory programme at the Bartlett School of Architecture. Her most recent book is The Venice Variations (UCL Press 2018) addresses cities and buildings as multi-authored processes of formation alongside authored projects of individual design intention. She has collaborated with cultural institutions on layout design, exhibition concept and visitors’ experience. Her design work was exhibited in Venice Biennale, the George Pompidou Centre, NAI Rotterdam, RIBA London, Berlin, Milan and Athens, Greece.

Dr Uta Staiger is the Executive Director of the EI, UCL’s hub for research collaboration and engagement on Europe. She has published on Berlin’s Palace of the Republic, the former parliament building of the German Democratic Republic, and a more recent co-authored piece, the majoritarian institutional culture represented by the UK Parliament building, which socialises actors into more conflictual political norms. 

Dr Claudia Sternberg is Principle Research Fellow at the EI, a scholar of politics who has published widely on political legitimacy and the production of social norms around democracy.


The conference will be held online on 12-13 November 2020.
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