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Katherine Shonfield

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Anyone who doubts the general perception that there is a crucial interconnection between form and government should check out the current mutterings attributed to Jaques Delors et al. The rumour is that an expanded eu should be rejected as fundamentally impossible because there is an optimum number that fit round a table.

The assumption of this pessimistic view is that form of government must follow architecture, rather than the other way round. Lord Wakeham's report on the House of Lords, A House for the Future, suggests the opposite.

There are some quite categorical pointers: 20 per cent of the new members will have to be cross-benchers, 30 per cent are going to be women, and there will be 550 seats all together. The proposal implies a new form. Punters should be aware, though: confrontational tendencies die hard. The plan of the relatively new Australian assembly looks as if it started as a nice consensual semi-circle that got squashed at some point into a u shape: it's one of the only parliaments where members regularly and gratifyingly come to blows.

But if architects can't get in on the Wakeham wheeze thus directly, another possibility is presented in the provisions for religious representation in the new House. The Church of England has had ten of its seats removed: seats will now be allocated to religious groupings in proportion to their numbers of baptised members. The big questions, of course, are, one, what defines a religion and two, what constitutes baptism? Portland Place temples to unearthly gods and full of masonic signs have distinct potential.

And as for the status of architectural baptism, this is fertile ground for another enjoyable arb/riba schism which should take us comfortably into the final decades of the century.

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