Versions of Parliamentarism in Modern Greece and Their Architectural – Spatial Reflections: Convergence, Debate, Imposition

Amalia Kotsaki
Associate Professor
Technical University of Crete

The paper attempts to shed light upon the unexplored strands of debate between architecture and parliamentarism in modern and contemporary Greece. It does so by studying the ‘theatres of democracy’, parliament buildings situated within Greek territory.

This research contributes to the interpretation of the evolution of Greek parliamentarism using architecture and space as a tool, an approach which slightly differs from the approaches usually implemented in the field of political research. It brings forward a rare opportunity for the enrichment of the considerations for such a crucial issue.

In Greece of the modern and contemporary era (after the Independence, in 19th and 20th century) seven Parliament buildings have been erected in total: at first, the first Parliaments of liberated Greece after the revolution of 1821 but before the nomination of Athens as capital of Greece in 1836, namely the parliaments of Nafplion and Aegina (first capitals of Greece), then the first parliament in Athens as capital of the Greek State (known as Old Parliament, a neoclassical monumental building designed by the architects F. Boulanger and P. Kalkos) and finally the contemporary Parliament in Syntagma Square in the center of Athens, the Old Palace, a neoclassical architectural synthesis (19th century) by the architect F. Gärtner, which became the Parliament after an immense transformation of its interior (1954).

There are also the Parliament of Cretan State, the Parliament of the United States of the Ionian Islands and the Parliament of the Principality of Samos, monumental buildings designed especially for parliaments. However, these parliaments haven’t been constructed from Greek local authorities but from the states that these semi-autonomous regions belonged. Crete and Samos were semi- autonomous tributary states under the Ottoman suzerainty and Ionian Islands under the British. (Crete until 1913, Ionian Islands until 1864, Samos until 1912).

The spatial construction of all these Parliaments in Greece, totally different between them and in reference to the Parliaments of London ( Parliament of the United States of the Ionian Islands, Corfu) and Istanbul (Parliament of Principality of Samos), proves Greece as an ideal field for research of the relationship between architecture and parliamentarism. In parallel, this fact appears as a good opportunity for the research of the relationship between a suzerain and a tributary state.

The paper will attempt the presentation of these parliaments with an effort to interpret the distinct differentiations of their architecture by comparing each parliament with the parliament of the suzerain state and with parliaments of other semi autonomous tributary states under the same suzeraingty. (Ionian islands, Malta, London Parliament_ Samos, Plovdiv (East Rumelia), Istanbul Parliament).

Which were their prototypes, ancient and modern?

Which were their references to the parliamentarian architecture of the suzerain states?

How do they express the versions of parliamentarism that each of them is housing?

Is the differentiation of their spatial construction expressed on their facades? If not, how can we interpret it? What precisely is the role of neoclassicism?

How do all these spatially different parliaments have structured political practices and how these practices have influenced greek parliamentarism after the Unification of these semi- autonomous tributary states with Greece?

November 24, 2020