Debate chamber
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A debate chamber is a room for people to discuss and
debate Debate is a process that involves formal discussion on a particular topic. In a debate, opposing arguments are put forward to argue for opposing viewpoints. Debate occurs in public meetings, academic institutions, and legislative assemblies. It ...

debate
. Debate chambers are used in governmental and educational bodies, such as a
parliament In modern politics and history, a parliament is a legislative body of government. Generally, a modern parliament has three functions: Representation (politics), representing the Election#Suffrage, electorate, making laws and overseeing the ...

parliament
,
congress Congresses are formal meetings of the representatives of different countries A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, ...

congress
,
city council A municipal council is the legislative body A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, country or city. Legislatures form important parts of most governments ...
, or a
university A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an educational institution, institution of higher education, higher (or Tertiary education, tertiary) education and research which awards academic degrees in various Discipline (academia), academic d ...

university
, either for formal proceedings or for informal discourse, such as a
deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a meeting of members Member may refer to: * Military jury, referred to as "Members" in military jargon * Element (mathematics), an object that belongs to a mathematical set * In object-oriented programming, a member of ...
. When used for legislative purposes, a debate chamber may also be known as a council chamber, legislative chamber, or similar term. Some countries, such as New Zealand, use the term debating chamber as a formal name for the room that houses the national legislature.


Debating

Debating can happen almost anywhere. Whether informal or structured as a discourse between select individuals or small groups with an audience, debates often occur with an audience. The debate does not ''directly'' involve the audience as they are not participants - they may even be remote, watching on television. The ''debating chamber'' is where the debate participants engage: the stage, panel or council table, or the presentation station. The audience is separate, even if the lines between participants and audience are not always distinct. The positioning of the debating participants is normally oppositional (to each other) or side-by-side in a fan-shape with the focus being the moderator's table (or audience). If there is an audience present, the moderator is normally positioned to the side or with back to the audience (or cameras), or sometimes positioned between the debating participants, especially if there are more than two participants. In the case when the moderator is not between the participants, as a rule, there are more than 2 and rarely more than approximately 15 participants. More than this typically involves a formally debating body or organization, such as a legislative body, which usually meets in a designated place or chamber, often purpose-built for this function.


Psychology and geometry

The configuration of seating affects
interpersonal communication Interpersonal communication is an exchange of information between two or more people but has been expanded to include machine actors such as robots and AI. It is also an area of research that seeks to understand how Human communication, humans use ...
on conscious and subconscious levels. For example, disagreements over the shape of a negotiation table delayed the Vietnam War peace talks for almost a year. Interpersonal communication involves both visual and aural senses. Faces are important sources of both visual and aural information (e.g., facial expressions and voices); and a person’s means of receiving such information (namely the eyes and ears) are most effective when able to face their focus of interest directly. Thus, communication is best facilitated through "face-to-face" interaction, whether the parties involved are in an amicable or adversarial role to one another. The geometry of seating position can further support or determine a sense of opposition/confrontation, hierarchy/dominance, or collaboration/equality. Factors such as angle/rotation, proximity/distance, median/termini, and height/incline must all be considered. The more directly two parties are positioned across from one another, the more likely their relationship will be one of opposition to each other; the less direct, or more “side-by-side” these positions are, the less likely such an opposing relationship becomes, but also the less effective it will be at fostering collaboration. These effects can be observed in debate chambers, meeting rooms, and at dining or restaurant tables. For instance, with a long rectangular table, those seated at the "head" or "end" of the table are in a position of dominance; they can see everybody, and normally everybody can see them, but the others are restricted to seeing only those across from them. Circular, square, or elliptical tables facilitate more equal status between those seated, as well as less obstructed lines of sight. A circular gathering with three participants provides the only non-oppositional configuration of more than two persons that allows equal line of sight (all 120 degrees apart). The smaller the group and setting, the greater the equity of participants and sight lines. Conversely, the more participants that are present, the greater is the disparity of sight lines between those sitting immediately adjacent and those more directly across, whose position in turn becomes more oppositional.
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The head o ...

Winston Churchill
recognized this when he insisted the British House of Commons be rebuilt (after wartime bombing) in a similar size and configuration as the prior chamber, to maintain the intimate and adversarial style of debate which he believed was responsible for creating the British form of government.


History

Whether outdoors or in an enclosed space or chamber, such as a cave, it is likely that the earliest designated places for group discourse or debate occurred around a fire, for light, heat, or protection from predators. Throughout recorded history there have been a variety of places and spaces designated for similar purposes. An early gathering for assembly purposes was the Ecclesia of ancient Athens, a popular assembly open to all male citizens with two years of military service. This was held in an
Ekklesiasterion In ancient Greece the ''ekklesiasterion'' (ἐκκλησιαστήριον) was the meeting place of the popular assembly (''Ecclesia (ancient Athens), ekklesia'') in a democracy, democratic Greek city-state (''polis'', plural ''poleis''). Venue ...

Ekklesiasterion
, which varied from small amphitheaters to a variety of buildings, including ones that could accommodate over 5,000 people. These assemblies were also held in amphitheater-like, open air
theaters Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usually actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place, often a stage. The performe ...
.
Bouleuterion A bouleuterion ( grc-gre, βουλευτήριον, ''bouleutērion''), also translated as and was a building in ancient Greece which housed the boule (ancient Greece), council of citizens (, ''boulē'') of a Greek democracy, democratic polis, ...

Bouleuterion
s, also translated as council house, assembly house, and senate house, was a building in ancient Greece which housed the council of citizens of a democratic
city state A city-state is an independent sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French ''souverain'', which is ultimately derived from the Latin Latin (, or ...

city state
. In
Ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a person who stud ...
, the earliest recorded debating chamber was for the deliberative body of the Roman Senate. The first official debating model that emerged (centuries later) after the fall of the Roman Empire was the
Magnum Concilium In the Kingdom of England, the Magnum Concilium, or Great Council, is an Deliberative assembly, assembly that was historically convened at certain times of the year when church leaders and wealthy landowners were invited to discuss the affairs of th ...
, or Great Council, after the
Norman Conquest The Norman Conquest (or the Conquest) was the 11th-century invasion and occupation of England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and ...
of England in 1066. These were convened at certain times of the year when church leaders and wealthy landowners were invited to discuss the affairs of the country with the king (of England, Normandy, and France). In the 13th century this developed into the
Parliament of England The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England from the mid 13th to 17th century. The first English Parliament was convened in 1215, with the creation and signing of the Magna Carta, which established the rights of ba ...
(concilium regis in parliamento). Similar models emerged at roughly the same time with the
Parliament of Scotland The Parliament of Scotland ( sco, Pairlament o Scotland; gd, Pàrlamaid na h-Alba) was the legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign ...
and
Parliament of Ireland The Parliament of Ireland ( ga, Parlaimint na hÉireann) was the of the , and later the , from 1297 until 1800. It was modelled on the and from 1537 comprised two chambers: the and the . The Lords were members of the (’’) and bisho ...
. These were later consolidated into the
Parliament of Britain The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in May 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England The Parliament of England was the legislature A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the ...
and the current
Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the of the , the and the . It alone possesses and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and the overseas territories. Parliament is but has three parts, consisting of the ...
(or British Parliament). The system of government that emerged in this model is known as the
Westminster system The Westminster system or Westminster model is a type of parliamentary A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democratic Democrat, Democrats, or Democratic may refer to: *A proponent of democracy Democracy ...
. In Europe, similar models to parliament emerged, termed ''Diet'' and Thing, or Ting, ''thing'' derived from old Norse for "appointed time" or "assembly". The ''parliament'' that claims to have the longest continuous existence is the
Tynwald Tynwald ( gv, Tinvaal), or more formally, the High Court of Tynwald ( gv, Ard-whaiyl Tinvaal) or Tynwald Court, is the legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political en ...
of the
Isle of Man ) , anthem = " O Land of Our Birth" , image = Isle of Man by Sentinel-2.jpg , image_map = Europe-Isle_of_Man.svg , mapsize = 290px , map_alt = Location of the Isle of Man in Europe , map_caption = Location of the Isle of Man (green) in E ...

Isle of Man
. In 19th century Russia, the
Duma A duma (дума) is a Russian assembly with advisory or legislative A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind ...

Duma
emerged to perform similar advisory functions to the monarch. In the 14th century, the king of France established the Estates General, a legislative and consultative assembly of the different classes (or ''estates'') of French subjects. In the 18th Century French Revolution, this was transformed into the
National Assembly In politics, a national assembly is either a unicameral In government, unicameralism (Latin , "one" and , "chamber") is the practice of having a single legislative or legislative chamber, parliamentary chamber. Thus, a ''unicameral parliam ...
(1789), the National Constituent Assembly (1789-1791), the
Legislative Assembly Legislative assembly is the name given in some countries to either a legislature A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of ...
(1971-1792), the
National Convention The National Convention (french: link=no, Convention nationale) was a parliament In modern politics and history, a parliament is a legislative body of government. Generally, a modern parliament has three functions: Representation (poli ...
(1792-1795), the
Council of Five Hundred The Council of Five Hundred (''Conseil des Cinq-Cents''), or simply the Five Hundred, was the lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers Coun ...
(1795-1799), and eventually the tricameral (three-house)
French Consulate The Consulate (French: ''Le Consulat'') was the top-level Government of France from the fall of the Directory in the coup of Brumaire on 10 November 1799 until the start of the Napoleonic Empire on 18 May 1804. By extension, the term ''The C ...
during the reign of
Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon Bonaparte ; co, Napulione Buonaparte. (born Napoleone di Buonaparte; 15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) r ...

Napoleon Bonaparte
. These bodies met in a variety of palaces, a
riding academyAn equestrian facility is created and maintained for the purpose of accommodating, training or competing equids, especially horse The horse (''Equus ferus caballus'') is a domesticated odd-toed ungulate mammal. It belongs to the taxonomic famil ...
, a large theater, and a
tennis court Indoor tennis courts at the TeamBath, University of Bath, England A tennis court is the venue where the sport of tennis is played. It is a firm rectangular surface with a low net stretched across the centre. The same surface can be used to play ...
. In the late 18th century the
United States of America The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country in . It consists of 50 , a , five major , 326 , and some . At , it is the world's . The United States shares significan ...

United States of America
established the
U.S. Congress The United States Congress or U.S. Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States and consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Wa ...
, a
bicameral Bicameralism is a type of legislature A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interac ...
legislative model that would form the template of many newly emergent republics around the world. The form adopted involved two legislative bodies, each with its own chamber. The
lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorporated community in Apache County *Chambers, Nebraska *Chambers, Wes ...
, the
U.S. House of Representatives The United States House of Representatives is the lower house A lower house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the upper house. Despite its official position "below" the upper house, in many legis ...
, was intended to provide representation based on population. The upper house, the
U.S. Senate The United States Senate is the Upper house, upper chamber of the United States Congress, with the United States House of Representatives, House of Representatives being the Lower house, lower chamber. Together they compose the national Bica ...
, was intended to provide more deliberative oversight on legislation and was to represent the States (equally). Each was created and its chambers designed before political parties were well established.


Names

The names given to debating places or spaces may refer to an activity, such as assembly or debating; it may refer to the persons performing that activity, such as ''noblemen'' (''Oireachtas'' in Ireland), lords, or
estates Estate or The Estate may refer to: Law * Estate (law), a term in common law for a person's property, entitlements and obligations * Estates of the realm, a broad social category in the histories of certain countries. ** The Estates, representative ...
; or it may refer to both, such as Senate (derived from the Latin for ''elder'', and ''assembly''). Some examples of the more common names for debating spaces: *
Assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) who use parliamentary procedure Parliamentary procedure is the body of ethics, Procedural l ...
, also Dáil in Irish, as in
National Assembly In politics, a national assembly is either a unicameral In government, unicameralism (Latin , "one" and , "chamber") is the practice of having a single legislative or legislative chamber, parliamentary chamber. Thus, a ''unicameral parliam ...
* Chamber or House, as in
U.S. House of Representatives The United States House of Representatives is the lower house A lower house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the upper house. Despite its official position "below" the upper house, in many legis ...
or
Chamber of Deputies The chamber of deputies is the lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorporated community in Apach ...

Chamber of Deputies
. * Council, as in
Magnum Concilium In the Kingdom of England, the Magnum Concilium, or Great Council, is an Deliberative assembly, assembly that was historically convened at certain times of the year when church leaders and wealthy landowners were invited to discuss the affairs of th ...
, or Federal Council. * Diet (assembly), Diet derived from Medieval Latin ''dieta'', meaning ''assembly''. Used in reference to many historical European assemblies, such as the Imperial Diet (Holy Roman Empire), Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire, the Diet of Worms, or the Hungarian Diet. The term is also used in reference to the modern-day Japanese Japanese Diet, parliament. Cognate terms include the German ''Tag'' (''Bundestag, Landtag'') and ''Dag'' in various Scandinavian languages (''Riksdag, Rigsdagen). *
Duma A duma (дума) is a Russian assembly with advisory or legislative A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind ...

Duma
: Russian, meaning "consider". * Parliament: derived from Anglo-Norman language, Anglo-Norman ''parler'', meaning ''speak.'' * Rada: Derived from Old East Slavic ''Рада'', meaning ''council'' (ex. ''Verkhovna Rada'' in Ukraine, meaning ''Supreme Council'') * Thing (assembly), Thing derived from Proto-Germanic *''þingą'' meaning "appointed time", later "meeting" or "assembly". A thing was historically the governing assembly of a Germanic tribes, Germanic society, made up of the free people of the community presided over by lawspeakers. Modern day cognates include Icelandic language, Icelandic: ''Althing, þing'', German language, German or Dutch language, Dutch ''ding'', and ''folketing, ting'' in modern Scandinavian languages. In English, the word "thing" has not kept its original meaning of "assembly", although it retains that sense in derived terms such as "husting", and the name of the Isle of Man, Manx parliament, the
Tynwald Tynwald ( gv, Tinvaal), or more formally, the High Court of Tynwald ( gv, Ard-whaiyl Tinvaal) or Tynwald Court, is the legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political en ...
. * Senate: used in many countries since the time of Ancient Rome, where the Senate (Latin ''Roman Senate, senatus'') was an assembly of elders (the term derives from ''senex'', meaning "old man").


Seating configuration

There are several common configurations of seating used in debate chambers: auditorium, rectangular, fan-shaped, circular, and hybrids. The shapes of the room vary and do not necessarily reflect or match the seat configurations. The architectural design of the chamber can shape the style of debating: a semicircular design may promote discussion for the purpose of reaching a consensus, while an arrangement with two opposing sides may promote adversarial debating.


Auditorium

The auditorium form of seating (and chamber) is a large audience facing a stage, often with a proscenium. The model is similar to direct instruction whereby the communication is unidirectional without active interaction or debate. Response is limited to applause or speakers coming onto the stage, from the audience or backstage, to provide a subsequent presentation to the audience. Given the scale and format, there is little opportunity for any direct discourse. Examples and images: USSR Supreme Soviet


Council and court

The council and courtroom configuration of seating is one that fosters interaction between the ":wikt:panel, panel" (court, council, board, or other officials) and the public. The panel members may debate or engage in discourse amongst themselves, particularly in a council of elected officials, but that is not normally the main portion of discourse. The more linear the seating arrangement is, the less supportive of it is for discourse. City Council chamber are less likely to use a linear configuration whereas judges in a court of law (where there is more than one judge in a sitting) frequently sit in a straight or nearly straight line. ''Examples and images:''


Rectangular

The rectangular (:wikt:bifurcation, bifurcated) seating configuration comprises two opposing rows of seats or benches facing towards a central aisle which bisects the room. At one end is commonly found a chair, throne, or podium for a Speaker (politics), Speaker, a monarch or president, or chairperson, respectively. This format is used in the Westminster style of parliamentary debating chambers, such as in the Parliaments of the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other former British colonies. In this configuration, on one side of the aisle is the government and the other the opposition. This supports oppositional or divided groupings, from which emerged in the 19th century the two-party political system in the UK, and its British dominions, dominions and colonies. Each person speaking is nominally directing his or her comments towards the speaker, but they do so facing the opposing members with their own group facing the same way they are. Without having one's own side turn around, it is not possible to face all members of the chamber simultaneously. In the British Parliament, the traditional method of recorded voting is called "division of the assembly" is by members placing themselves in separate rooms called ''division lobbies'', one each for the "Ayes" and "Noes". (This is derived from the Roman Senate which voted by division, by a senator seating himself on one side of the chamber or the other to indicate a vote. Common folklore speaks of the aisle between the government and the opposition sides as being "two sword lengths", or "two sword lengths plus an inch", apart, although there is no record of this being a criterion. Examples and images: House of Commons of Canada, Senate of Canada, Cortes of Castilla–La Mancha


Hybrid

A hybrid of the bifurcated and semi-circular seating configurations combines a central aisle with a curved end at one end facing the focal point (e.g. Speaker (politics), Speaker's chair) at the other. Another hybrid form is one that is rectangular, but not bi-furcated; the overall arrangement is rectangular, as is each of the three seat groupings. For example, in both the lower house of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Czech Republic's Chamber of Deputies and in the Palace of Assembly at Chandigarh, India, the seating arrangement is a series of straight rows all facing inward in three groupings, two on either side of a central aisle and one at the end facing the podium. Examples and images: Lok Sabha, India's Lok Sabha, House of Representatives (Australia), Australia's House of Representatives, National Assembly of South Africa, Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.


Fan-shaped

The hemicycle or semi-circular seating configuration originated in late 18th century France when the post-revolutionary leaders selected the amphitheater form as one that would symbolize and foster unity, in contrast to the "impression of parliamentary fragmentation" of the British configuration. This configuration was soon emulated in other parts of Europe and in the United States Congress, the Capitol Building being designed by French architect Benjamin Latrobe. This adoption of the ancient Greek theater form coincided with the Greek revival movements in architecture, including literal use of the symbology of the ancient democracy. Its form allows for presentation by a single person, or small group, to speak or present to all members of the chamber on a face-to-face basis from a podium (or similar element) at the focal point of the room. The primary hierarchy of position is largely distance from the podium, and is not in a position of support or opposition. This position gives pride of place to the podium, is not inherently partisan, and if each member of the group is given the chance to address the group, everyone has a (theoretically) equal position. Examples and images: Chamber of Deputies (France), France's Chamber of Deputies,
U.S. Senate The United States Senate is the Upper house, upper chamber of the United States Congress, with the United States House of Representatives, House of Representatives being the Lower house, lower chamber. Together they compose the national Bica ...
, German Bundestag, National Council of Provinces, South Africa's National Council of Provinces


Circular

Circular seating configurations for places of discourse have been envisioned as early as the 12th Century story of the Knights of the Round Table. As with many later versions, this was intended to be a collaborative forum. In the late 1940s, facilities for the United Nations Security Council, a body formed during and immediately after the World War II, world's greatest conflict, were designed to support collaboration and avoid confrontation. Since the early 1990s, several debating chambers have been constructed that support, or were designed to support, consensus-style or collaboration-style discourse and government. These include legislative assembly facilities for indigenous peoples, indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in Northern Canada, Great Britain, and Polynesia. Most are for bodies that do not involve formal political parties. Examples and images: United Nations Security Council, Senedd building, Senedd of Wales, Gitlaxt'aamiks, Wilp Si A'yuukhl Nisga'a), Legislative Assembly of Nunavut, Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories, meeting halls of the Society of Friends, National Parliament of the Solomon Islands.


Virtual

The introduction of regular live television broadcasts of legislative chambers, which began with the Canadian House of Commons in 1977,Parliament of Canada, Broadcasting Services
Retrieved 2016-04-12 has influenced debate and extended the audience well beyond the physical location of the debate chamber. More recently this has developed into direct two-way communication in small and large meeting rooms (virtual events), and even through personal hand-held devices into nearly every corner of the world. This has both changed the nature of the physical nature of the debating environment into a digital and virtual one, and in a non-literal sense into a series of ever-changing and highly varied configuration and collection of spaces determined by where each debate participant happens to be located. This may also have the added effect of drawing others into the debate, whether as passive observers or active participants, unwittingly, uninvited, or by active invitation of a single participant. For those meetings or debates who remain grounded in a structured location, such as a conference room or legislative chamber who connect to one or several remote participants via video-conferencing, the configuration of the room may be re-focused onto the video screen and away from those in the room.


Notes and references


Manow, Philip: ''In the King's Shadow''. Polity, 2010.
. {{Reflist


External links


The Shape of Debate to Come

Parliaments around the world: what can architecture teach us about democracy?
Deliberative groups Debating Legislatures Legislative buildings