Architects ambivalent about Scottish parliament site . . .
Donald Dewar missed out on one of the most spectacular locations in Europe in dropping Calton Hill for Holyrood as Scotland's new parliament site, many architects north of the border feel.
An aj straw poll of some of the best-known practices in Scotland revealed deep reservations about the chosen site and splits on the favoured types of competition. Most, however, will enter.
Richard Murphy from Richard Murphy Architects said: 'Calton Hill, one of the most spectacular sites in Europe, should have been chosen as the location. It is a favourite location for tv broadcasts and is such a potent symbol of Scotland.' He added: 'Judges must look worldwide. I did not vote in the referendum for it to be a national ghetto. Our entering the competition may depend on whether it is open or invited. Open competitions can be a huge waste of effort and put enormous strain on offices. More than 850 entered two A0 displays each for the Berlin government building: enough work to pay for it.
'It is also about quality of democracy. You should be able to make a seriously-informed choice and to do that you must pay for architects to work it out properly.'
Elspeth Latimer from Ungless & Latimer disagreed: 'Part of the competition should be open because it reflects democracy in that it is open and transparent. Such competition also attracts younger talent.' The site was brilliant because there was a good mixture of old and new architecture, she added.
John Spencely of Reiach and Hall Architects felt the winning site was second-best. He said: 'I tend not to like competitions because you cut out dialogue between architect and client. But as long as the conditions are right and we know who the jury is, we will enter. Though I'm not a Scot, part of me feels competition should be restricted to Scotland because devolution is about controlling your destiny.'
Andrew Nicoll from Nicoll Russell Studios said: 'Half of me feels the competition should be Scottish, the other feels non-parochial. Our architecture, however, is not parochial, it is international and there is plenty of talent in Scotland to make a good job of it.'
Bob Hall from Parr Partnership said: 'We would find it difficult to say no to the competition but the terms must be right. It should be restricted to practices in Scotland. You can get a little jaundiced when competitions always go to the big architectural 'names'. I have no strong feelings about the site. It has been chosen: let's get on with it.'