Shaping the Diet: Competing Architectural Designs for Japan's Diet Building
38 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2014
Date Written: September 3, 2014
The design of parliamentary buildings can and do have positive effects on the establishment of constitutionalism and democracy as a part of the institutionalization of governance. But once such legislative chambers are completed, it is hard to alter them physically. Actually, Germany is still succeeding the Reichstag-style chamber, even though there was the replacement and considerable discussion about renovating it into a British-style building. In similar fashion, Japan has also continued to use the same chamber, the National Diet Building (completed 1936), to the present day, in spite of the political regime change in 1945 from constitutional monarchy to parliamentary democracy.
Given Japan's status as the first country in Asia to modernize, the question of how Japan chose a design for their parliamentary chamber is an intriguing one. On the surface, the National Diet Building bears a strong resemblance to the German Reichstag, but in fact Japanese decision-makers carefully studied preceding patterns of parliamentary chamber design before adopting the current configuration.
The outline of this paper is as follows. Firstly, we will examine the designs and the procedure of the four chambers, Kōgisho, Chihōkan Kaigi, Genrōin and Sūmitsuin, which housed Japan's pre-Diet legislative bodies in the early Meiji period. Secondly, we will analyze why in 1889 the Meiji Government, faced with two competing design proposals, adopted not the British-style chamber, designed by Josiah Conder, but the German-style one for the Diet Building. And thirdly, we will examine how and why that same German-style design of the chamber was maintained in the new Diet Building in 1936 and even after the New Constitution and Diet Act were made after World War II, despite some requests for the adoption of the British style.
Keywords: parliament, diet, chamber, democracy
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