So Scotland is set to get a new Parliament building, and 'foul play' they cry. Who? All those architects, architectural historians, conservationists, etc who wish to be, but are not, involved in what may well be one of Scotland's most important buildings for decades to come. Having lost all battles about location, democratic legitimisation of the commissioning process, competition, schedule, and the preferred selection of young architects, inevitably that timeless, universally parochial argument crops up which is so often the last line of defence: Scotland's Parliament should be built by a Scottish architect.
It is sad how the shortlisted candidates stress their Scottish connections, however weak and artificial these are. Sadder, the journalists who leave unquestioned their interpretation of the (reasonable) consideration to 'probably set up office in Edinburgh' as a special commitment to Scotland. Saddest of all, those who complain 'about the lack of deep cultural understanding' of Richard Meier (aj 14.5.98) and other 'big brothers . . . from the us' (aj 2.4.98). Will they, accordingly, issue a call to Scottish architects not to work on projects abroad due to their lack of 'deep cultural understanding' of foreign countries?
Rather than deploring a non-Scottish architect designing the Parliament, architects in Scotland should welcome the current discussion as an opportunity for an open debate about the current state of architecture and urban design in this country. A glance around cities and countryside shows that such a debate is long overdue. The assumed 'deep cultural understanding' of Scotland by architects in Scotland creates all sorts of buildings, but not necessarily architecture. Maybe local or regional is not a priori superior?
VOLKER M WELTER