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The Democracy of the Space: A critical comparison between the National Assembly of Wales and the Scottish Parliament

Table of Contents

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1. DEMOCRACY 

Democracy, one of the oldest institutions of civilised life, has survived since its beginnings from the early Greek and Roman civilisations to the present time. This section presents a brief introduction about democracy (Birch, 2006).

1.1. Concept of Democracy 
Birch (2006) has noted that Democracy is about rule of the people and allowing an openness that facilitates people to voice their beliefs, thoughts, needs and more important, allowing others to voice contradictory thoughts and feelings (Birch, 2006).

1.2. Democracy Nowadays 
In the present context, democracy has become a venue for all and sundry leaders who manage to get elected by a thin majority to assume that they are best suited to understand the needs of million of people from their constituency. Governance has become a matter of political expediency rather than any scientific and logical decision-making (Birch, 2006).

1.3. Democracy in Context 
Democracy in the present context is about giving a voice to the weakest and most oppressed people of the society. By democracy in the present context, one means removing the cobwebs of feudalism from the mindset (Birch, 2006).

1.4. Experiences in Democracy 
The author of this paper asserts that the experience in democracy allows a person to do anything that is legal and permissible, if it does not infringe on the democracy of others. In other words, if one wants to enjoy a democratic right, there is a duty that another person's rights are not violated (Birch, 2006).

 

2. DEMOCRACY AND SPACE 
Buildings reveal a lot about the times they were built, the government policy during those times and if the political environment allowed freedom of thought and speech. The gothic arches and forbidding spell a dark and sinister look and this was in times of the lean and strict times during Queen Victoria's reign (Pederson, 2007).

2.1. Generic Spatial Principles 
There are some generic spatial principles to be considered while designing public use buildings. They are the use of space for work and play; the way in which the building fits the landscape; open or closed system of architecture that makes proper use of glass and brick to create a symbol of freedom and space and the optimum use of built space (Lupfer, 2008). There are certain limitations that the architect has to operate in. Some of the limitations are availability of proper site - the architect has to accept what is given since for public use buildings the site is selected after due debate on the political outcome and other non-architectural advantages. There are other spatial requirements that architects can observe or leave and this is the internal and external embellishments. In the previous centuries, public use buildings had to be with complete with gothic designs of swirls towering spires and thick walls that could repulse the actions of enemies (Pederson, 2007).

2.2. Spatial Principles Selection 
The spatial principles selected are: use of land; type of architecture whether closed or open; layout of the debating room; area where the cabinet sits on sessions and other such principles.

 

3. CASE STUDIES OF DEMOCRACY AND SPACE 
Pederson (2007) points out that the architecture in the 1900s believed that massive and forbidding structures were the best places to live and work. This belief was carried over to the massive fortifications of the British parliament and in other nations. In those days, parliaments were designed to be structures that had to resists cannon fire from the rebels. On the other hand, the structures that came up in after World War II believed that buildings could have a more open and friendly outlook. Many architects such as Bauhaus influenced the design of everyday artistic objects such as tables; chairs, car and the school launched the ideas that changed the design of such objects. There was a conscious effort to do away with the distinction between artist and craftsmanship and suggested that art is not a profession and that there is no difference between an artist and a craftsman and that both formed a single community with no class distinction. The effect was to create a new set of design elements. Two structures will be examined in this section. The structures are: National Assembly of Wales building and the Scottish Parliament building. These two structures will be examined critically with specific focus on the debating chambers of the two buildings. There will not be an opinion of which is better or worse but the paper will try to explain which structure best represents democracy (Preece, 2003).

3.1. Comparative Analysis 
The new national assembly for Wales came up after a long struggle for autonomy and it stands for the hopes and aspiration of the people from Wales. The new building was thought of as an impetus for a larger program of improving the image of Cardiff. The city was known as a rougher place and one where sophistication was not to be expected in construction. Transparency and physical openness are the main features of the structure (NAW, 2010). The main area is the debating chamber where the business of the house is conducted. The debating chamber is almost sunk into the structure and it has a subterranean location with a huge conical funnel that gradually tapers through the glazed pavilion, right through the roof plane. The underside of the roof has a lining made of untreated red cedar along with thin steel columns that give an extension to the building support (Slessor, 2010).

The Scottish Parliament, on the other hand, was supposed to highlight the stature of the Scots as an independent race that has mastery over the construction of large and massive structure. The debating chamber was designed to the main focus are where the parliament business would be run. The Scots do not want a confrontation with each other and the British. The chamber has an elliptical shape and the political divisions are blurred. The intent of confrontational parliamentary models was to be done away with and hence there is no question of pitting MPs from one party to another (SPE, 2010). Lighting appears from a number of different sources and the appearance is of open spaces with multiple resources of light and knowledge. The whole area of the buildings is covered with a bright light and gives an appearance of openness that is almost ready made (Malagamba, 2010).

The Welsh Parliament for all its opulence and neat lines is more bent on forcing the message of openness and being an area where democracy and free speech and thought are the guiding light. However, the subterranean debating chamber with a funnel that gives light seems to convey the image that the Welsh people are still not confident of self-administration and look to the British mainland for help and guidance. The Scottish Parliament on the other hand assumes openness and transparent behaviour as natural. The budget for the construction was ultimately more than 430 million GBP while that of the Welsh parliament was about 80 million GBP. This huge difference is reflected in the manner in which the buildings appear.

 

4. CONCLUSION 
The paper has examined the concept of democracy and how the term is reflected in the buildings of the Welsh Parliament and the Scottish Parliament. Democracy was defined allowing people to express what the felt about any issue. The debating areas of the two structures were examined for the inner and external feature; how light was allowed inside and how people were allowed to be seated. The Welsh parliament is located in a subterranean area with a huge tapering funnel for light. The impression that one gets from the Welsh building is that democracy has just emerged from its confines and is looking for help and sustenance from elsewhere. The Scottish parliament building on the other hand is located in the open and the seating is designed to prevent conflicts and allow easy expression of ideas.

 

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