For many countries, a parliament building provides the focal point for moments of celebration and remembrance. These buildings are often the most famous in the entire country and many appear on banknotes, imprinted into a nation’s psyche or ingrained within a country’s persona. Not only do these government buildings play a large role in the political life of the country, but they are historical monuments too, providing an illustration of the country’s heritage. Here is our rundown of some of the best examples of these buildings.
Reichstag Building, Berlin
The Reichstag was opened in 1894 and housed the government until 1933 when it suffered a devastating fire. The bad fortune of the building continued into WWII, when it suffered major damage and fell into disuse. The building was partially reformed in the 1960s but went under major reconstruction after the German reunification of 1990 when architect Norman Foster began his modernisation of the building. The addition of a contemporary glass dome in the 1990s now gives a spectacular view of the city. The dome’s vast central glass cylinder is one of the Reichstag’s most impressive features, designed to radiate natural light down to the parliament floor. This historic building is now the second most visited attraction in Germany which reflects the dedication on its exterior which reads ‘Dem Deutschen Volke’ which means ‘To the German People’.
Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reichstag_building#/media/File:Reichstag_building_Berlin_view_from_west_before_sunset.jpg
Hungarian Parliament Building, Budapest
The Hungarian Parliament building (or Országház in Hungarian, which translates to House of the Nation) is one of Hungary’s major landmarks. Completed in 1904, it is one of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings, and at 96 metres tall, it is also one of the largest buildings in the country. The building is a monument to the independence of Hungary from Austria, and so a competition was held to find an architectural design from the Hungarian public in recognition of this newly gained independence. The now-famous ‘Gothic revival’ design from architect Imre Steindl emerged as the winner. The building is incredibly ornate and intricate in its design, often requiring maintenance work to maintain its grandeur. Construction of the building began 1885 and involved around 100,000 people, 40 million bricks, half a million precious stones and 40kg of 23-carat gold.
Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hungarian_Parliament_Building#/media/File:HUN-2015-Budapest-Hungarian_Parliament_(Budapest)_2015-01.jpg
Palace of Parliament, Bucharest
Bucharest’s Palace of Parliament is the second largest administrative building in the world, after The Pentagon. To give some idea of its magnitude: the building is the heaviest in the world, weighing 4,090,500,000 kg (the equivalent of over 29,000 blue whales) and has a floor area of 365,000 square metres (which is more than 50 football pitches combined). This colossal building was designed by architect Anca Petrescu, who won a contest for its construction, which was completed in 1997. It was constructed from 700,000 tonnes of steel and bronze, combined with various other materials, including wood and marble. However, the cost of heating and electric lighting alone exceeds $6 million a year, so the environmental impact of this impressive building is a subject of debate amongst modern architects and environmentalists.
US Capitol Building, Washington D.C.
The Capitol is the main place of meeting for the US Congress and widely recognised as a symbol of American democracy. It was completed in 1800 and is built in a distinctive neoclassical style. It was designed by William Thornton, who won the design competition for the Capitol, proposed by Thomas Jefferson. Thornton was inspired by the east front of the Louvre and the Paris Pantheon, for the centre portion of his design. The building has been expanded many times since its original construction, the most notable addition being the central dome. The dome was built between 1855 and 1866, it has a height of 88 metres and is made from cast iron which is carefully painted to replicate the main stone which was used to construct the main building. There are many other interesting features of the Capitol building, including its own subway which carries politicians from House and Senate Office buildings to the Capitol.
Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Capitol#/media/File:US_Capitol_west_side.JPG
Palace of Westminster, London
Commonly referred to as the Houses of Parliament, the Palace of Westminster is an iconic landmark of London, and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. It was originally built during the middle ages, having been completed in 1016. However, it was almost completely destroyed by a fire in 1834. The present Palace of Westminster that we all know today was rebuilt between 1840 and 1870, by architects Sir Charles Berry and Augustus Pugin. However, interior decoration continued well into the 20th century. The building was built in the perpendicular Gothic style, which is a style characterised by an emphasis on vertical lines. The reconstruction was seen as a huge success, with Tsar Nicholas I of Russia calling the new building “a dream in stone”. The building has been listed as a World Heritage Site since 1987.
Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palace_of_Westminster#/media/File:Parliament_at_Sunset.JPG
There are many other stunning parliament buildings around the world. Here’s a brief run-through of our honourable mentions:
The Binnenhof in the Netherlands was primarily built in the 13th century, making it one of the oldest parliament buildings still in use. The Secretariat Building in New Delhi which is comprised of four levels with 1,000 rooms on each floor.
Whilst most of these buildings are in a traditional, and classical gothic style, there are plenty of remarkable modern parliament buildings, such as the Scottish Parliament Building, which opened in 2004. It was listed as Scotland’s fourth greatest modern building in Prospect magazine. Also, the city of Canberra is home to the Australian Parliament building. It was the successor to Old Parliament House and it has become the focal point of Canberra.
Ultimately, parliament buildings are national symbols. They are an intrinsic part of a country’s history; a physical embodiment of democracy, reflecting the cultural and architectural heritage of their people.
Are there any parliament buildings you particularly love that you think deserve a place on this list? If so, let us know in the comment section.
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This post was originally published in February 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness since.