Five design teams have been shortlisted from 12 as competition and controversy over the Scottish Parliament building hots up.
Richard Meier and Partners and Michael Wilford were among those who romped through to the next stage, while other favourites - Benson + Forsyth, Allies and Morrison and abk with Behnisch, Behnisch and Partner - fell at this latest hurdle.
Each team was interviewed for an hour-and-a-half last week by a panel of six, chaired by Scottish secretary Donald Dewar and including former Mackintosh school professor Andy Macmillan, broadcaster Kirsty Wark and Scottish Office chief architect John Gibbons. And each was grilled on design philosophy, examples of their previous schemes and how the teams would approach the £50 million project at Holyrood, Edinburgh.
The five winners have until the start of next month to draw up concept ideas and details of recent projects. These will go on public display around Scotland. A winner will be chosen at the start of July, said the Scottish Office.
One of the shortlisted architects, Laurence Bain of Michael Wilford and Partners, said: 'It was good to meet the client for the first time. We had to say how we would apply our design ethos to the parliament building.'
The Denton Corker Marshall/Glass Murray Architects' submission would give the Royal Mile a new point of termination in a new Parliament Square. The building will 'become an open window to view the Scottish spirit of enterprise, and one for Scotland to identify a new vision for a dynamic and brave future,' said Denton Corker Marshall's James Gibson.
The team is concentrating on three important faces, one of which is the roof. It is aiming for a high degree of transparency, although giving some privacy to the debating chamber. A front face of planar glass may rise well above the roofline so that when approached from the Royal Mile side it would read as a tower.
Although based in Melbourne, Australia, Gibson is a Scot who studied at Strathclyde University with Gordon Murray of Glass Murray. Murray and partner Alan Dunlop are now in Melbourne at dcm's office working on their final-stage submission.
Bitterness, however, is intensifying over the running of the competition. An architect who asked not to be named criticised the lack of deep cultural understanding of the five teams remaining. 'With Richard Meier, you know you are going to get a white monster - a huge refrigerator - dropping on you from outer space.'
Charles McKean, a professor of Scottish architectural history who was involved with the competition for the Scottish Museum, also said the building desperately needed an architect who 'lived and breathed' the historic site.
'The process has been rushed,' he said. 'I think it improbable we will have a good building. Why move into temporary lodgings for a year-and- a-half? You may as well stay there for four years and get it right. It is an unseemly rush, and means a good building depends on luck rather than processes.'
In another twist to the competition, Rafael Vinoly Architects has beefed up its Scottish credentials by drafting in Reiach and Hall Architects of Edinburgh. Robert Steel, a director of Reiach and Hall, said his practice - which was eliminated in the earlier stages of the competition - would support Vinoly. 'It is the lead designer, we will advise and give it background information on the site.' Rafael Vinoly Architects would probably set up office in Edinburgh to see the design through if it wins the competition, he said.
One of the losing designers, Gordon Benson of Benson + Forsyth, said: 'We are immensely disappointed at losing. It would have been the most important building of our careers.'
Another loser, Peter Ahrends of Ahrends Burton and Koralek, said: 'The core of our intention was to give a design voice to a new expression of democracy in Scotland, uk and Europe. Donald Dewar seemed hell-bent on finding a great building and they have gone about it the best way they can.'
Bob Allies of Allies and Morrison said that his practice was disappointed not to reach the final stages, but not aggrieved. 'We have become used to this sort of thing; they have chosen well. We shall put ourselves in the running for the Welsh Assembly building.'
rias president George Wren said the new building should 'represent Scotland's vision of the future', be 'sensitively designed' and 'an environmental model'.
. . . that give a 'world-class feel' with Scottish flavour
Scottish Office chief architect John Gibbons said the shortlist had a truly world-class feel with a strong Scottish flavour. 'We are all aware of the work Enric Miralles has been doing in Barcelona. He presented an impressive range of completed buildings and showed an enlightened approach to design.'
Richard Meier, he said, gave a great commitment to personal involvement to the design and was an important and articulate designer. Rafael Vinoly's recent work in Tokyo and New York was at the core of his presentation. He had completed many large projects on time and to a high design standard.
Michael Wilford and Partners' portfolio was truly outstanding and had a strong Scottish element, Gibbons said. 'Laurence Bain trained at the Mackintosh school, was well researched on the project and passionately committed to the parliament.'
Glass Murray Architects and Denton Corker Marshall showed impressive international flair with the Australian Embassy in Tokyo and Melbourne exhibition centre. The 'even partnership bid' had strong Scottish influence, he said.
SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT SHORTLIST OF FIVE
Richard Meier and Partners with Keppie Design Associated Architects(New York/Glasgow)
Rafael Vinoly Architects with Reiach and Hall Architects (New York/Edinburgh)
Michael Wilford and Partners (London)
Enric Miralles Y Moya (Barcelona)
Glass Murray Architects with Denton Corker Marshall (Glasgow/Melbourne)