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Listen to what users say, not just architects

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There is no doubt that the Museum of Scotland is an architectural showpiece (aj 25.2.99). But a museum is an institution for the people, so to have another architect, rather than a user, write the article did not give an objective picture.

I set off there to explore a particular bit of Scotland's heritage and was handed a beautifully drawn section of the building which neither the guide nor I could fully understand, so I went exploring. After an energetic hour or two I was left with very mixed feelings. Scotland and the Scots are both remarkable, but boxed into their spaces with only very contrived little connections back to the central space left me feeling controlled and unable to make informed choices about where I wanted to go.

I went in search of a cup of tea, a scone and some user response, not available in the new building but thankfully there in the wonderful, lively gallery of the old part of the museum. This is Scotland celebrated in all its grand splendour. 'We actually prefer working in this building,' said an attendant.

Anyway, let's be ready to hear more from the users of our buildings. We are architects enough to understand that 'this parti dramatises ravishing moments where the axis of the building kebabs the new . . . ' but not always to hear from those who live and work there.

Ian Jolly

User consultation director, HTA Architects

By e-mail

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