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Parliamentary architecture and national identity

Parliamentary architecture and national identity

Victoria University Professor Nigel Roberts will examine what parliamentary buildings tell us about democracy and national identity in his inaugural professorial lecture next week.

“Some of the world's most famous buildings are parliaments and legislatures. They are often grand and imposing, and they reflect a nation’s politics. Winston Churchill correctly noted during World War Two, 'we shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us',” he says.

Professor Roberts, a specialist in comparative politics, has had a growing interest in parliamentary architecture during his 27 years at Victoria University.

“Our very own Beehive was built because the parliament erected early last century was only half the size of the parliament designed for New Zealand by the official government architect. The rest of the building was meant to go where the Beehive is now—there were also grand plans for domes and cupolas that were never built,” he says.

“There are different traditions in the design of parliaments around the world. North American legislatures are very classical. They draw their ideas from Greek and Roman architecture. What does this tell us about national identity and their political systems?”

Professor Roberts says he is very keen on visiting and experiencing different parliaments. He has visited parliamentary buildings in five of the seven continents of the world.

“Victoria University’s inaugural lecture series is an opportunity for new professors to provide family, friends, colleagues and the wider community an insight into their specialist fields of study. It is also an opportunity for the University to acknowledge and celebrate our valued professors,” says Vice-Chancellor Professor Pat Walsh.

“Professor Roberts has made an outstanding contribution to Victoria’s political science programme since his arrival in 1981. He is an excellent teacher and researcher and it will be a great honour to celebrate his achievements at his inaugural professorial lecture,” he says.

Professor Roberts will act as TVNZ’s election commentator in this year’s election for the eighth successive election.

He has also won four New Zealand Electoral Commission Wallace Awards and been involved in an eight-year Foundation for Research, Science and Technology-funded project analysing the consequences of New Zealand adopting MMP.

His inaugural lecture is on Tuesday 5 August 2008 at 6pm in Lecture Theatre 1 at Rutherford House, Bunny Street, Wellington. Please RSVP to rsvp[at] with ‘Roberts’ in the subject line. All welcome.


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