The House of Commons of the United Kingdom was destroyed by fire from enemy bombs on May 10th and 11th of 1941. More than two years later, England’s Prime Minister —Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill announced to Parliament that a committee would be appointed to rebuild the House of Commons.
In agreement with (America’s Architect) Thomas Jefferson, who resolutely advocated the craft of architecture as a powerful tool to teach, enlighten, and elicit social change, Churchill said:
“We shape our buildings and afterward our buildings shape us.”
It is critical to British Parliamentary for the House of Commons, he said, to be rebuilt with the exact same aspects and design pattern the previous building had before it was bombed.
Updating with air conditioning, microphones and speakers was welcomed but the Prime Minister strongly believed the features of the original building had literally shaped their British character.
For example, the role of the oblong layout of the room encouraged debate. It impelled members to declare themselves on one side or the other. In contrast, a semicircular design would give members the option to move around in shades of grey or “according to weather changes.” But with the older fashioned oblong design, a member had to seriously weight out their allegiance before they publicly crossed the floor to the other side; which Churchill himself had done twice in that position.
Contrary to what some considered a backward perspective, there were many who saw the preceding House of Commons as having been too small and not conducive to collaborative exchange. Therefore, they pressed for rebuilding something grander, on much larger scale, with a modern semicircular form as progressive world assembly halls had.
Churchill was adamant that the chamber should not be enlarged to accommodate everyone, rather it should be inconvenient, tight quartered, small enough to remind us of our common humanity. The majority of their debates centered on less weightier matters, and a smaller chamber would encourage a conversational atmosphere. And when things of greater importance were brought to bear, bringing people in closer proximity impressed upon them the respect and magnitude of the principal object to be considered.
“…the House of Commons is much more than a machine. It has earned and captured and held through long generations the imagination and respect of the British nation… The house of Commons has lifted our affairs above the mechanical sphere into the human sphere.”– Winston Churchill
In other words, Churchill was not just campaigning for a structural design —he wanted the intimacy to look into the eyes of the soul, to draw forth from the essentials of humanity, and in doing so, become less apt to be self-interested. Instead of being lost in a sea of faces, every individual would fully view each others passions, sweat, logic, and rationals. In closing, he added the old sentiment, “be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”