Too cramped, too stuffy: Zug's parliament wants to move

Too cramped, too stuffy: Zug's parliament wants to move



150 years ago, the Zug cantonal parliament met in today’s hall for the first time. In the anniversary year of all things, many members of parliament think it’s high time to move.

In the hall of the Zug cantonal council, there is quickly a bad atmosphere, it doesn’t even need a particularly heated debate. It is enough if all 80 parliamentarians are sitting in their narrow rows of desks, along with the five members of the government, the employees of the state chancellery and the media representatives.

Especially in summer, the room temperature rises quickly and it gets stuffy. If the windows are opened, fresh air gets into the hall – but at the same time the traffic noise is so loud that the votes can hardly be understood.

View of the hall of the Zug cantonal parliament.

Legend: Tight seating, poor acoustics, stuffy air in summer: the Zug cantonal parliament meets in cramped conditions. Keystone/Urs Füeler

For SVP cantonal councilor Philip C. Brunner it is therefore clear: “It is time to consider alternatives for this hall.” Everything is too narrow, there are no meeting rooms for the parliamentary groups, and visitors have to squeeze onto a bench in a corner. “Our infrastructure is no longer sufficient for a modern council operation,” says Brunner.

It’s time to consider alternatives for this room.

He is not the only member of parliament who thinks this way: members of all parties have signed his proposal that the government should examine the realization of a “new and multifunctional” hall.

Hall bears witness to 150 years of parliamentary history

The criticism of the cantonal council chamber comes just now, when the canton of Zug actually wants to celebrate it. The first parliamentary debate took place here 150 years ago, in the then newly built government building. In 1873, the cantonal council left the premises of the medieval Zug town hall and moved into the newly built magnificent building directly on the lake shore.

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The Zug government building, directly on Lake Zug.

Legend: The Zug government building, built between 1868 and 1871, directly on Lake Zug: the government has since moved to other buildings, the parliament has stayed. Keystone/Gaetan Bally

At that time, conservative and liberal parliamentarians sat opposite each other on upholstered benches, modeled on the British Parliament. It wasn’t until the late 1930s that the seating was changed to today’s lecture hall – the politicians found it tedious to always have to climb over their colleagues to get to their seats.

Zug cantonal parliament: until the end of the 1930s, the liberal and conservative factions sat opposite each other on benches.

Legend: Like in the British Parliament: until the late 1930s, the Liberal and Conservative factions sat on benches across from each other – the council staff sat at the tables in the middle. The two cups still serve as ballot boxes today. State Archive Zug

There were always conversions and renovations, but the fundamentals of the hall – which is now also a listed building – were not changed. An electronic voting system is practically the only concession to modernity. But the hall breathes 150 years of parliamentary history.

Ironically, the conservative SVP wants a new hall

Philip C. Brunner also sees it this way: “Sure, I’m kind of attached to the hall, like many others,” he says. That he, of all people, as a representative of the conservative SVP, suggested moving out of the historical hall, surprised him himself: “I wouldn’t have thought that a few years ago either.”

Parliaments are also at odds in other cantons

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Legend: The canton of Vaud has had a new parliament building since 2017 – the dome-shaped roof is controversial. Keystone/Laurent Gillieron

Im Canton Zurich The cantonal parliament decided just over a year ago that it wanted to keep the more than 300-year-old town hall directly on the Limmat as a conference venue – the SP and Greens had suggested a modern “House of Democracy”. However, the Zurich Cantonal Council is currently holding its meetings in the Bullingerkirche, while the historic town hall is currently being extensively renovated.

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Also in Canton of Thurgau a new town hall was already an issue. The cantonal parliament meets there alternately in the cantonal capital of Frauenfeld and in Weinfelden – a Swiss unicum. For reasons of efficiency, the SP suggested locating parliament permanently in Frauenfeld, in a hall with a modern infrastructure. The idea was buried just over a year ago.

In some cantons, however, it was possible to make the cantonal parliaments within their historic walls fit for modern council operations. In Freiburg For example, additional space became available in the town hall due to the relocation of the cantonal court. The building was renovated for a good 20 million Swiss francs, and since last autumn the Great Council has been meeting in more generous space.

A completely new parliament building has been in use since 2017 Canton of Vaud. In 2002, the old building in Lausanne’s old town district of La Cité burned down during renovation work – because there was no money for a new building, the Vaud councilors met in a temporary location for 15 years. The new building is controversial in public. Above all, the dome-shaped roof has been criticized to this day.

But what opened his and other council members’ eyes was the council’s operations during the pandemic. During this time, the cantonal parliament met in a triple gymnasium in the cantonal school, where there was everything that was missing in the old hall: enough space, everyone had their own desk, good acoustics, large screens for projecting plans or pictures.

Cantonal council meeting during the pandemic in a gymnasium of the Zug cantonal school.

Legend: Maybe not very atmospheric, but enough space and a separate desk for everyone: Cantonal council meeting during the pandemic in a gymnasium of the canton school. Keystone/Urs Flüeler

“Today we work differently than previous members of parliament, so we also need a hall that allows us to do this,” says Philip C. Brunner. “To put it bluntly: It would be best to build a new parliament building.”

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The Zug cantonal parliament has not yet dealt with Brunner’s proposal. He himself does not believe that he will ever experience a new hall. But, he says: “You can also be visionary.”

Central Switzerland regional journal, March 14, 2023; 17:30;



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