Not all houses of government are alike. That’s true in the abstract sense, but it’s also a physical fact. Some parliament houses are set up in a horseshoe shape, others in a circle, and some in a rectangular, classroom-shaped layout. Parliament—a book from the Amsterdam-based creative agency XML and available at ideabooks.nlexplores how the different layouts of the physical rooms where parliaments hold their sessions reflect the political processes that go on inside, WIRED reports.

In 2010, XML began researching the physical layouts of the parliaments of all 193 of the United Nations member countries.

“Parliament is the space where politics literally takes shape,” the book’s authors write on the accompanying website. “Here, collective decisions take form in a specific setting where relationships between political actors are organized through architecture.”

The layout of Brazil's parliament, pictured in the photo above. Image Credit: Parliament / XML

In some rooms, opposing sides argue from across the room, and in others, they sit directly next to each other. Russia’s government, classified as authoritarian in the book, is decidedly classroom-shaped. The layout is a metaphorical reflection of the top-down ruling structure of a state that is increasingly being called a dictatorship.

And while you may never get to see inside the government halls of Bangladesh or Germany or South Africa or the European Union in Brussels, you can visit them virtually and see where the laws that affect us in daily life actually get discussed and passed. On the parliament website, visitors can take in the layouts of some of the government spaces featured, as well as explore 360° photography of the rooms, giving an experience inside the halls that is similar to Google Street View. All of the images were taken between 2011 and 2013 by the book’s authors.

[h/t WIRED]

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