The Embodied Competence of Institutions

Parliamentary Space and the UK Parliament


  • Sophia Psarra



UK Parliament, Spatial Competence, Political Culture, R&R Programme


This paper explores the connection between the spatial configuration of the UK Houses of Parliament, how the building is perceived by parliament Members, and political culture. It conceptualizes spatial competence as the knowledge that enables and limits users in employing the possibilities space offers for socio-political interaction; and spatial performance as the realization of these possibilities for the exercise of power and negotiation through rules of behaviour and spatial practice. A qualitative approach based on interviews with parliamentarians and a quantitative study of spatial morphology are combined, demonstrating the agency of space in generating a spatial culture of informal interactions akin to the political practices of negotiation and adaptation that define British politics and the institutions of its larger constitutional order. Describing and visualizing the spatial characteristics supporting these institutions is critical for understanding how the upcoming Restoration and Renewal Programme (R&R) of the UK Houses of Parliament can be about restoration as well as renewal.