PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS OF THE WORLD
October 1, 2019 9:54 PM   Subscribe

That’s it. That’s the thread. Like The Whelk ranking menswear, but government buildings. [SLTT, and wonderful]
posted by ersatzkat (45 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
I enjoyed how evenly divided the Australian replies were.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 10:08 PM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


Scrolling through now. I agree that the one for the Bahamas does indeed look like a delicious cake!
posted by acidnova at 10:43 PM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


This is the only kind of thing Twitter is good for.
posted by Reyturner at 10:50 PM on October 1, 2019 [5 favorites]


If you think the Australian Parliament sucks from the outside, wait until you see it from the inside.

It's a pompous, oversized piece of pomo-ish-but-not-quite-pomo-enough-to-be-notable architectural kitsch, it's got all the welcoming warmth of a medium security prison family-visiting waiting lobby (complete with overzealous metal-detecting security guards, CCTV everywhere, and colour-coded carpets for Houses and the Ministerial wing) and only replaced the Old Parliament House because of this country's delusions of bureaucratic grandeur and a cringeing inferiority complex. The 1920s building wasn't big enough to hold all the staffers and entitled journalists, and the country had an expensive brainfart of Washingto-philia coming up to the bicentenary of European invasion in 1988. That's its origin story.

It's so cavernously big that you get lost in it and have to navigate by room numbers. The design makes every pissant hick MP or Political Correspondent feel like a Byzantine intriguer, and the only affective place in it—the one spot that workers in it actually speak fondly of—is an overpriced pie shop, 'Aussies'. Canberra has a lot of conspiracy theories about occult symbolism and geometry in its urban layout, but from the inside of APH you can't believe it could be cool enough to be magical, it's more like the expensive aisle at IKEA. They excavated an entire hill for it, half-consciously monumentalising our extractive, one-way, dig-it-up-and-send-it-cheap-overseas political economy.

The last of the hill they landscaped back inclines up to the flagpole and is grassed, so that it looks like you could walk from anywhere on top of it, around it, or lie down at the top and roll to the bottom, and was supposedly meant to be physically welcoming and humbling; a Parliament its citizens could walk on. Except that you can't, there's a fence now, and you have to pass a security checkpoint to get in. I can't think of a more apt architectural statement of what my country is about these days.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:13 PM on October 1, 2019 [21 favorites]


"I do find the windows quite upsetting."
posted by hippybear at 11:20 PM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


Threadreader link for easier reading.
posted by jzed at 11:22 PM on October 1, 2019 [6 favorites]


This would be so much better as a page on someone's own blog. Or, better still, a book. The Twitter thread thing is incredibly annoying to read, and inaccessible, and Threadreader isn't a lot better.
posted by winterhill at 11:40 PM on October 1, 2019 [10 favorites]


If you think the Australian Parliament sucks from the outside

Yep.

Victorian Parliament is much nicer, and I'd lump it quite quickly into the author's "boring neoclassical" grouping.

...but I do like some boring neoclassical.
posted by pompomtom at 12:25 AM on October 2, 2019


I should point out that I’ve worked in the Australian Parliament for a very long time. I like it but my attitude to it is more about function than form. I will say that the courtyards are really nice places to have lunch and the magpies are lovely.

Also, when I talk to people in other Parliaments they’re insanely jealous of how much space there is in the basement. My office is down there and until recently there was a door there and when you opened it there was dirt behind it.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 1:55 AM on October 2, 2019 [8 favorites]


The last of the hill they landscaped back inclines up to the flagpole and is grassed, so that it looks like you could walk from anywhere on top of it, around it, or lie down at the top and roll to the bottom, and was supposedly meant to be physically welcoming and humbling; a Parliament its citizens could walk on. Except that you can't, there's a fence now, and you have to pass a security checkpoint to get in. I can't think of a more apt architectural statement of what my country is about these days.

I quite liked the idea of being able to literally and symbolically walk over/above our politicians.

But they were never going to let that last, were they.
posted by Pouteria at 3:22 AM on October 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


What, no love for the Scottish parliament (which opened in 2004 after some epic struggles with, well, everything—at one point the architects, the construction company, and the government were all suing each other)?

Hint: Original estimated cost in 1999: £38M. Final cost after it opened a couple of years late: £414M. Yes, the English were paying, how did you guess ...?
posted by cstross at 4:59 AM on October 2, 2019 [5 favorites]


Much like Kelvingrove Art Gallery, the Canadian Parliament is better when viewed from what seems like behind. Unlike Kelvingrove it's easy to do so. It's a kind of Ontarian Westminster, it's reasonably good but not amazing.

"Reasonably good but not amazing" is sort of our national thing - Regards, Canada.
posted by Mogur at 5:07 AM on October 2, 2019 [12 favorites]


It's as Canadian as possible under the circumstances.
posted by bonehead at 5:28 AM on October 2, 2019 [6 favorites]


I loved the new Parliament House in Canberra (and the old one) when I lived there in the 1990s. I like the 1980s interiors; they remind me of my youth. There are some great tapestries in it. But I was dismayed when they fenced off the grass; it was so fundamental to the concept and the experience of the place. I haven't seen it since that was done, and am not looking forward to seeing the fence in person.
posted by rory at 6:03 AM on October 2, 2019


As a Canadian, the sheer nostalgia for Mother England in the Canadian Parliment is humilating, and also racist but polite about it in a way that just makes us seem obsequious. It's the worst.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:04 AM on October 2, 2019 [4 favorites]


Came for a glowing review of the Papua New Guinean parliament, not disappointed. It's the best.

Also, from above it looks like a ship from Elite.
posted by tomp at 6:06 AM on October 2, 2019 [4 favorites]


I hadn't noticed that Fiji's parliament had moved back into the old Government Buildings in 2014. Its parliament building of the 1990s and 2000s was an impressive sight, modelled on traditional Fijian thatched houses.
posted by rory at 6:24 AM on October 2, 2019


Sadly, he won't get to review Tonga's quaint century-old parliament house, with its weatherboards and red roof, as it was flattened in a cyclone last year. Even sadder, 'Akilisi Pohiva, lifelong pro-democracy campaigner and Tonga's prime minister since 2014, died in office last month.
posted by rory at 6:36 AM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


The Australian parliament is a bit bland, though at least it tries to be forward-looking. Its main crime is false advertising, presenting a vision of dynamism and modernity: as the seat of a government that fetishises traditionalism, in a country whose national anthem sounds like a third-rate marching song crossed with a funereal dirge. It does not convey the mediocre, stunted conservatism of the Australian body politic, and in this it fails.

Were it being built today, it'd probably look like a Palladian mansion, complete with colonnades and ha-has on its Capability Brownian grounds, every bit of it “proper” as bespeaks our traditions as firmly rooted in Western Civilisation, not some sort of vaguely communistic postmodern melange. The main concessions to it being in Australia would be some Grecian statuary depicting kangaroos.
posted by acb at 6:42 AM on October 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


Its main crime is false advertising, presenting a vision of dynamism and modernity

It was a good match for the Australia of the late 1980s and early 1990s, though. The one that all went to shit in 1996. Cf: UK architecture of the late-1990s/early-2000s.
posted by rory at 6:52 AM on October 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


Some favourites:
Benin (points for Afrofuturism), Brazil's (of course; Oskar Niemeyer, wasn't it?); Gabon, Georgia (nice post-Soviet UFO architecture thing). Grenada's (elegantly modernistic without being overly out-there), Malta (bit of a Bauhaus vibe), Papua New Guinea (quite striking). I hope The Gambia lives up to its render.

Others: Botswana's looks like the bus loop outside a suburban shopping centre. It's funny how China's and North Korea's look so similar. Germany's Reichstag is rescued from being overly stolid by its new dome. The lack of Bauhausiness in the Israeli Knesset is a little disappointing.
posted by acb at 7:07 AM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


I have to admit I kinda have a soft spot for the Australian Parliament House. Yes, inside it's like a a half-empty IKEA from the 80's crossed with a tacky faded-70's Gold Coast motel. Yes, the more public areas open when Parliament's not in session are so blandly straightforward that you find yourself getting lost even when walking in a straight line. Yes, the security guards are over-zealous (last time I was there they wanted to confiscate my half-eaten roll of Fruit Tingles!) though, IME, not as threatening as the police just outside the front door with the semi-automatic rifles or as creepy as the ones patrolling the roads leading down towards the lake. Yes, the huge paved area out front leaves you realising just how unpleasantly exposed you are as you walk across it.

Still, apart from Old Parliament House which has a quaint charm, it's the best-damned-looking monumental building on that side of the lake. The National Library is a bland sort of Ancient-Roman-meets-disinterested-70's building with seemingly reverse-TARDIS properties (it feels much smaller on the inside than the outside). The National Gallery is a cavernous Brutalist monstrosity that doesn't know which way it should be facing, and leaks. The High Court is the same, though at least 2 of the sides are softened with panes of glass. The National Portrait Gallery too has all the charm of a highway overpass.

At least with New Parliament House you can still get the lift to the top and, if parliament is in session, peer down into the courtyard at pollies sneaking a not-supposed-to-be-doing-that-there cigarette.

The PNG Parliament in Moresby, though, while not what I'd call a beautiful building, is one that just looks right in its place. I've never seen a picture that actually captures that quality though - you really have to be there to appreciate that aspect of it.
posted by Pinback at 7:08 AM on October 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Like The Whelk ranking menswear, but government buildings.
posted by xedrik at 7:13 AM on October 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


I would like the thread to consider Litchenstein's description as currently a bit Toblerone of Terror.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:30 AM on October 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


My favorite is the Bangladesh moat.
My favorite review: Cameroon- Expect it to cost a lot to remove all the asbestos when they take this high school gymnasium down.

I think Argentina's looks a lot like the PA state capitol, and Brazil's reminds me of Albany, NY.
posted by MtDewd at 8:41 AM on October 2, 2019




I'm impressed at how Faulds made so many hilarious comments, but also didn't ignore political reality:
🇸🇾Syria🇸🇾
Hard to strike a balance for this one between "cheery review" and "oh my gods this just rubber stamps the decisions of a man who is swimming in the blood of his own people"
THE BUILDING IS ALRIGHT I GUESS
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:06 AM on October 2, 2019


The guy seemed to like El Salvador's but to me it looks like the convention hall where a central Florida Comic Con would be.
posted by mhum at 9:28 AM on October 2, 2019


Agreed that he usually accounted for politics, but I was a little taken aback when he got to
🇨🇱Chile🇨🇱

Chile, who hurt you? Why did you do this? I don't understand what the trouser loving heck is going on here. NO.
I'm surprised he didn't reveal that this one was built during the Pinochet era, replacing the original congress building, which appears to be recovering some of its government functions (any Chilean Mefites care to confirm?). "Who hurt you," indeed.
posted by hangashore at 9:35 AM on October 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


Whee, this is great! And more diverse than I was expecting (I was expecting it to be entirely split between old world Gothic and new world meh neoclassical)
posted by grandiloquiet at 9:37 AM on October 2, 2019


The ubiquity of neoclassical architecture is quite astounding. Kind of sad that so many nations have forgone their own architectural traditions. Don't get me wrong, I love symmetry and neoclassical designs, but it's just a bit disappointingly homogeneous.
posted by Acey at 9:47 AM on October 2, 2019




cstross: What, no love for the Scottish parliament

We did a guided architectural tour of Scottish parliament a couple of years ago. The guy conducting it had apparently been deep in the weeds of the construction project, and was also one day from retirement on the day of our tour. Consequently, we got some pretty salty inside baseball about some of the, uh, challenges of the design and construction and associated cost overruns.

Would recommend that tour to anyone visiting Edinburgh.

They also had a well-done touch tour for blind and visually impaired visitors, using tactile replicas of a bunch of the architectural features. They even had a full-scale reproduction of the mace.

Came away from it with mixed feelings about the building, but I have to say the amount of natural light (and the view of Arthur's seat) that the parliament chamber is afforded was a nice touch.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:13 AM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


Canada's parliament buildings might be rooted in UK fetishism, but they aren't anchored there. The buildings have been under constant renovations for decades. When it came time to close the house of commons (the main legislative assembly) for renos, they built a new (temporaryish) one under a glass dome in the courtyard. Its a daring move, and I think they pulled it off really well:
https://toronto.citynews.ca/video/2018/06/15/tour-the-future-temporary-home-of-the-house-of-commons/
https://www.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/citeparlementaire-parliamentaryprecinct/rehabilitation/ouest-west-eng.html
posted by Popular Ethics at 11:35 AM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


Have the Canadians moved away from the adversarial two-benches-facing-off Westminster layout to something more conducive to multi-party democracy like the Continental Hemicircle?
posted by acb at 11:41 AM on October 2, 2019


Have the Canadians moved away from the adversarial two-benches-facing-off Westminster layout to something more conducive to multi-party democracy like the Continental Hemicircle?

Nope. Her Majesty's official opposition still faces opposite.
posted by Popular Ethics at 11:43 AM on October 2, 2019


Well, there's a missed opportunity.
posted by acb at 11:54 AM on October 2, 2019


He's gotten to the UK's legislatures (and finished the thread).
posted by dinty_moore at 12:55 PM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


If Parliament Hill still had its kitties, I'm sure the review would have been much better.
posted by maudlin at 3:09 PM on October 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


I like how Malta's kind of weirdly-shaped building is mimicking the architecture of the ancient tombs on the island.

I also appreciated how, much like myself every time I take on a project like this, you can tell how quickly he got bored with the 70% that are extremely similar to each other and became almost purely novelty-seeking.
posted by Copronymus at 3:32 PM on October 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


That was ridiculously fun
posted by supermedusa at 4:10 PM on October 2, 2019


they built a new (temporaryish) one under a glass dome in the courtyard.

I've been told that this dome will be the new home for the senate after the commons moves back to centre block.
posted by bonehead at 5:16 AM on October 3, 2019


The most striking thing about the Turkish parliament building is its conspicuous domelessness. The building's shape suggests a cupola, and flaunts its absence, confronting the eye with an empty space where it should be. I'm wondering whether that's deliberate Ataturk-era symbolism for having abandoned and drawn a line under the Ottoman era, alongside banning the wearing of the fez.
posted by acb at 7:38 AM on October 3, 2019


"Disappointing" is just about right about the Chinese parliament building... It was built post-1949, when the Soviets are looked upon as the benevolent elder brother.

When my parents honeymooned in Beijing, some relative pulled some strings to get them a tour inside, and it was one of the highlights of their trip.

There was an essay in my primary school Chinese textbook that's about this building (it was built within a year!) and I just found out that's still in current textbooks.
posted by em at 9:14 AM on October 3, 2019


In defence of New Zealands Parliament, it looks like a hodgepodge because it is one. The right-hand side was started off a hundred years ago, but they had to give up half way through due to war shortages. Then in the 1960s they decided to finally finish it off, but unfortunately Brutalism was in style at the time. Thus the Beehive was built to serve as the Executive Wing, with weird wedge-shaped offices and an annoyingly semi-circular banquet hall.

It's certainly distinctive though, which is very important for a tourist attraction.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 3:03 AM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


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