Winston Churchill and Legislative Chambers

I’ve been doing some research on Winston Churchill. He had many penetrating insights on constitutional law and practice. One of them was that the British House of Commons (and many modeled on that chamber) are rectangles that presume a Government side and an Opposition side. In the United States and many other countries, the legislative chambers are semicircular. Why?

I don’t know the answer, but Churchill observed that semicircular chambers tend to break down partisan barriers. You don’t have to “cross the floor” to talk to other members. You can just mill around. That was probably not the intent, but who knows. Churchill, of course, took the view that parties in the British sense were essential and thus, when the House of Commons was destroyed in 1940, he said it should be rebuilt as it was. Maybe there is an interesting story about why the Capitol was designed in the way it was.

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