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... and missed Benson + Forsyth's achievements

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Given the fabricated controversy over the past week regarding the inclusion of the Museum of Scotland in the shortlist for the Stirling Prize, it surely cannot be entirely coincidental that a review of Benson and Forsyth's monograph on the building appears in the pages of the aj. I use the word 'review' advisedly, since Gerry McLean does not seem to be sure whether he is offering a critique of the building or the book. In the end he failsto do either, communicating instead a rather affected metropolitan ennui, and offering irrelevant and uninformed opinions on both.

Mr McLean fails to ask himself why the book is packaged and designed the way it is. Did it not occur to him to question such an expensive production being almost exclusively in black and white? Or why Helene Binet's photographs are counterposed with those of Richard Bryant and sequenced as they are? And why captions were avoided? Does he really think it was arbitrary? Mr McLean asks for a structuring device - it is unfortunate that he has such difficulty with the pictorial representation of a route through a building, but the book has a very clear and - to most readers - highly intelligible structure.

In trying to describe the photographs, your correspondent resorts to a superficial interpretation of the building's architecture. This is particularly unacceptable in that it fails to understand the complexity of the Museum of Scotland's roots in its national architecture, its site and in the artefacts which form the building's contents. There are only three essays, but Mr McLean has failed to grasp the nub of any of them, nor indeed the balance between them and reasons for the choice of authors. So many questions, so little questioning - self-opinion, it would seem, is everything.

More importantly, your correspondent seeks to portray the book as an indulgence on the part of the architects. This fails to recognise either the role of the building in the changed political circumstances of Scotland, or the evolution of an architecture policy here which the museum has been pivotal to. It has become a flagship for the promotion of Scottish architecture to a wider international audience, which is why the new Scottish executive made some contribution to its production costs.

It is a fact of life that the uk publishing industry is based in the restaurants of London and could not spot a captive audience from 400 miles away; hence the lack of interest in publishing such a book. The architect put its money where its mouth is, and produced what by general consensus is one of the most handsome and intellectually engaging publications ever seen in British architecture.

In August, during this year's Edinburgh International Book festival, Professor Gordon Benson eloquently described the thinking behind the book's assembly. Perhaps the aj should sponsor a similar talk in London to stimulate debate on how architects should consider the publication of their work, rather than waiting - as Mr McLean suggests - for the approbation of others. His suggestion that monographs are only legitimate if produced by someone else perhaps indicates his own lack of critical confidence; but be assured, the book's existence does not preclude the production of further publicationson the building - indeed the sheer quality of its architecture deserves this to happen.

Mr McLean describes himself as an architect in London: can I suggest that he stick to the day job, and hope that some day someone will feel his work is worth publishing. I look forward with interest.

Peter Wilson, director, Manifesto: the Centre for Creative Architecture, Napier University, Edinburgh

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