'I am trying to do a fantastic building. It will be beautiful and in a beautiful location.'
So said Enric Miralles this week about his latest adventure - the job to design the new, non-adversarial Scottish parliament building in Edinburgh's Holyrood. Born in 1955, the Spaniard has that Eric Cantona-esque talent many non-English speakers have for making a kind of poetry out of an unfamiliar tongue, and there's more in Miralles' sheets of proposals for the design. 'Scotland is a land . . . it is not a series of cities,' he tells us. 'The parliament sits in the land because it belongs to the Scottish Land,' and 'we have the feeling that it should be land, not a building in a park nor a garden'.
The 'upturned boat' design ('something about their forms flouting [sic] in the landscape should be part of our project') will be a 'crucial' step in his already long and varied career, according to Miralles. It will also mean postponing many of his international commitments and basing himself in the Scottish capital to oversee designs in collaboration with rmjm Scotland.
Miralles graduated from the architecture school in Barcelona in 1978 and set up practice in 1984. Since 1990 he has collaborated with Bendetta Tagliabue, a Milan-born architect specialising in exhibitions, restorations of old city centres and, she says rather grandly, 'every project dealing with Italy'.
It was the pair's pavilion at the Venice Biennale 1996 which won the Golden Lion, and Miralles' list of competition wins follows a long trail around Holland (Valkhof Castle in Nijmegen, now under construction), Spain (a railway park in Mallorca, for example), Germany (rehabilitation of the harbour of Bremerhaven) and Greece (a dock in Thessaloniki Bay, also under construction). Other previous projects include the Olympic Archery Range in Barcelona and the 1992 Igualada Cemetery.
In exhibitions and in education he has been similarly busy, having been an invited professor and lecturer in several universities in the us, South America and Europe. And, in 1995, he delivered a puzzling address to London students in an attempt to become the new chairman of the Architectural Association. Sadly for him, he was defeated by Mohsen Mostafavi. As regards his own education, however, his 1983 PhD thesis was called 'Something seen at right and left (without glasses)'. That could also be a fitting sub-title for his latest building commission.