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IT IS IRONIC THAT IT OWES ITS EXISTENCE TO SUCH A FUNDAMENTAL DECEIT

EDITORIAL

Contrary to popular belief, this year's Stirling Prize jury had not determined a winner before the deliberations begun. With the strongest shortlist in the prize's history and some truly sublime contenders, it was far from clear that Holyrood had to win - and some of us were still not convinced when we cast the final vote.

The Scottish Parliament is, after all, a little hard to digest. The architectural equivalent of the Victorian novel, it is overblown, baroque and riddled with subplots. But, like the best Victorian novels, it is fuelled by a level of ambition that is rarely matched by its contemporary counterparts, least of all some of the lacklustre tick-box offerings that pass for civic architecture in the age of bargain-basement PFI.

In the end, its vision, the breathtaking quality of its execution and its sheer joie de vivre seduced the majority of the judges, just as they have seduced much of the public - and many of the viewers;

the building came a close second to Foster's McLaren in a popular vote conducted by Channel 4.

The parliament is, of course, hugely extravagant in every way - but not quite as over budget as its detractors would have us believe. In its early stages this was, in fact, a building without a budget, for the very simple reason that it was a building without a fixed brief. The figure of £40 million was plucked from the air by then Scottish first minister Donald Dewar, on the basis that you could not sanction a major public building without ascribing it a figure and that this was the figure the Scottish public would accept. It is both ironic and unfortunate that a building designed to embody symbiosis between a parliament and its people owes its existence to such a fundamental deceit. But it would be more unfortunate still if this fact were to prevent us from acknowledging the astonishing accomplishment of the Holyrood building itself.

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