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Architects pan Holyrood’s ‘clumsy’ security extension

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The controversial and newly-completed high-security entrance to Enric Miralles’ iconic Scottish Parliament has been slammed by architects of the original scheme

Lee Boyd’s £6.5 million security upgrade opened to the public this summer but has already been criticised for ruining Minralles’ carefully designed approach to the building and placing the public at risk.

The project is the latest in a long line of expensive security additions to the nine year-old building which ran ten times over budget, finished three years late and was subject to a public enquiry.

Gordon McGregor, who worked as site architect for Miralles Tagliabue EMBT and RMJM on the building’s eastern superstructure said the new structure ruined the original route from Caltongate into the parliament which was ‘the generator of the whole design.’ 

He said: ‘[The route] was a brilliant experience of turning through low and high, dark and light spaces with carefully framed views back to the city or the landscape. This has now been destroyed.

‘The visual formation of the key idea, the connection of city and the land has gone. The experience of entry is that of an airport security hall.’

John Ramsay, who was second in command of the project and responsible for coordinating design input from the police and Home Office, also claimed the addition failed to ‘improve the security of the public one iota’.

He said: ‘It demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the motivation and methods of the perceived “threat” - a hedgehog solution to a problem best solved by a fox.’

Kieran Gaffney of Portobello-based Konishi Gaffney Architects hit out at the cube-like structure for cluttering public space and obscuring the views of the £414 million legislature.

Describing it as ‘just another nail rather than the final nail in the coffin’ for the high-profile building, he however conceded: ‘It could have been worse. The building does blend in with the granite flooring and the concrete soffit.’

But Peter Wilson, director of the Wood Studio at Edinburgh Napier University’s Forest Products Research Institute, criticised the security addition for failing to continue the original parliament’s open jointed granite rainscreen cladding system.

He said: ‘Quite why the replacement architects have chosen a different form of construction remains an unanswered question, unless it is intended to provide clear distinction between the original and the replicant.’

Wilson continued: ‘It is hard to see this solution as anything other than clumsy and, sadly, whilst Lee Boyd Architects have elsewhere proved themselves to be a more than competent practice, this particular chalice was always going to be a poisoned one for them to pick up.’ 

The new facility features an enlarged screening space, a ‘baggage drop’ and induction loop.

Commenting on the project’s completion in The Scotsman, Holyrood presiding officer Tricia Marwick said: ‘The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body took the decision to build an external security facility on the basis of clear and consistent security advice.

‘I am pleased to report that it will open on time and the project remains on budget.

‘We have enhanced the security of the building, but have achieved it in such a way that the Parliament will continue to feel open and accessible to the people of Scotland.’


Miralles Tagliabue EMBT comment

‘We had bid to design this new security extension  in order to preserve the integrity of Enric Miralles’s vision:  the connection to the land of Scotland, and a building which is friendly, inviting and open to the people.  

‘This is what EMBT/RMJM built almost ten years ago, and we are concerned by the alterations that have been carried out by other architects. We feel their intervention threatens the purity of the entry procession, and may jeopardize the connection between the land, amphitheatre chamber and parliament.

‘However we are still confident that the parliament buildings we worked on are strong and capable enough to withstand these alterations.  We are proud of what was achieved, and confident that the results of this will continue to have a lasting and positive effect on Scotland.

Campaigner against the Parliament extension Ruairidh Campbell Moir comment

‘I am disappointed that the parliament built this ill-considered and poor extension in this way.  Aside from the obvious flaws, both aesthetic, symbolic and safety, with this extension - the parliament did not consult nor inform the public about this proposal in a way you would expect a public institution to do.

‘As a result, we have this very visible alteration to one of the most significant buildings of the century.  This is, from a Scot’s perspective, wholly embarrassing.  I look forward to the day that the bureaucratic strings are broken and the extension is removed to restore the parliament complex to its former splendor.








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Readers' comments (1)

  • Clumsy? Yes, it may be uninspired. But in the context of the anarchy that is Holyrood, Lee Boyd's security addition appears to be the epitome of sensible restraint.

    Samuel Hepford, RA
    Washington, DC

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