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Scottish shortlist long on delusion and myth

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The rewriting of history - particularly Scottish architectural history - is always fascinating to observe, but in his hagiographic piece on Gordon Murray and Allan Dunlop, Neil Baxter assists the promulgation of a myth about these architects which has, at best, only tangential basis in fact (aj 25.2.00).

The 'competition' for the Scottish Parliament resulted in the project being awarded to Enric Miralles, with the insistence by the then Secretary of State for Scotland, that an architect rather than a design had been selected (a decision arguably at the root of the building's current financial and programmatic difficulties). There were no other awards for the project, and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise. Moreover, the final shortlist of architects was made up of Denton Corker Marshall, Richard Meier, Enric Miralles and Michael Wilford and Rafael Vinoly. No Scottish architects made it to the final shortlist other than (as Richard Murphy has so eloquently termed it) in the role of 'caddies to the international golfers'. Having previously completed a Parliament building in Australia. It is perhaps understandable why Denton Corker Marshall's name made it to the shortlist.

The subsequent presentational reverse from Denton Corker Marshall as leader of a quasi-partnership arrangement with Glass Murray Architects (as was) appeared as a less than subtle attempt to capture the Scottish public imagination in support of a local team. Although hardly an unusual stratagem, this was unlikely to prove successful in this instance since the rather nebulous public consultation exercise undertaken had no voting dimension. In any case, during the relatively short period (three weeks) the five shortlisted teams were given to produce a design, all quotations about the Denton Corker Marshall project stemmed from the firm's James Gibson, and some months later John Denton himself was advertised in Glasgow 99's programme of lectures as the 'runner up (sic) in the Parliament competition'.

Since, however, there was no second prize the question of the actual placing and authorship is perhaps academic, but there will be many in the profession who will feel uncomfortable at reputations and workload being built and sustained on the back of a chimera. Self-promotion is one thing, self-delusion quite another. When the full history of the creation of the Scottish Parliament is written, it is unlikely that the names Murray and Dunlop will feature prominently, if at all.

Peter Wilson, director, Manifesto Centre for Creative Architecture, Edinburgh

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