Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more


  • Comment

Enric Miralles famously decreed that the Scottish Parliament 'should be able to reflect the land it represents'. This has been pursued quite literally. Positioned at the end of Edinburgh's Royal Mile and at the foot of Arthur's Seat, this highly organic building mediates between the city and the drama of the Scottish countryside. Its craggy street elevations are reminiscent of rocky outcrops, while those elements which reach out towards the grassy slopes of Arthur's Seat are roofed in shaggy turf. Miralles' love of decoration and multi-layered symbolism is widely in evidence.

The building is rich with references to the Scottish landscape, from the timber screens to the MSPs' offices which evoke birch trees, to the fragments of stone incorporated in an external concrete wall.

The eclectic palette of materials is mirrored by a dizzyingly complex set of spatial experiences; the low-ceilinged dimly lit entrance foyer has a monastic 'undercroft' feel; the garden lobby is light-filled and fluid; committee rooms are soaring tower-like volumes, the MSPs' offices are cellular but culminate in the eccentricity of Miralles' highly sculptural window seats.

This highly romantic vision has been executed with ingenuity, rigour and precision. The diverse spaces share a crafted theatricality which is clearly a reflection of a single coherent vision. The apparently organic plan is, in fact, perfectly rational, defining two separate circulation routes: one for members of the public and one for the MSPs. Even its most vocal critics - and there are many - have to acknowledge that the quality of the workmanship is outstanding.

Joan Bakewell There are real issues about democracy here. Is a government which builds a building which its people don't want actually letting them down? Is it letting them down if it doesn't?

Max Fordham I've worked on a lot of buildings which have been on time and on budget, and one of them was so horrible that after a few months it had to be pulled down.

Jack Pringle I think we all agree that the budget was a charade. But the budget isn't the issue - because the circumstances are so complicated. The issue is whether the building produces a brilliant parliament for Scotland, and whether it's well-executed. The impression is that Scotland wanted a 'proper' parliament building, not just a converted school. And they wanted it to reflect the poetry of Scotland and the Scots - not just to be a utilitarian debating and office box. If that's so, they got what they wanted.

Piers Gough Trying to build a crafted building in a non-craft age is very expensive.

But in the end, if you get a building like this right, it will pay for itself several times over, by allowing all the right decisions to be made in the future.

And it's a feast. It's just a complete feast - for the eyes, for the senses? Jack Pringle It's a riot of invention and shapes. Post-Gaudì if not Post-Modern. Despite its care and attention to detail, I do wonder if some key bits really work.

The office spaces could be better functionally but I love the window seats.

I am concerned about the debating chamber. The arc of seats is less than 180 degrees, so none of the MSPs are looking at each other in the debates.

It's more like a lecture theatre. Some of the committee rooms are extraordinary and exquisite, almost rococo in their complexity.

Joan Bakewell Do those timber louvres across the building obstruct light? It seems a strange thing to do in a country with so much rain. It seems rather heavily detailed.

I find it difficult to find a place where I can rest the eye.

Isabel Allen The only moments of absolute serenity are the views out towards Arthur's Seat - and those are reserved for the support staff. For all its willful selfindulgence, you feel that it is rather considerate of the people who actually work there. People who drop in and out have this incredibly over-whelming, high-energy experience, but the people who work there all the time are able to experience it at a different level.

Max Fordham All the environmental issues are very understated - but they are all there.

The light levels are generally quite low, and that's fantastically important because when light levels are high, people automatically turn on the lights as it always feels lighter with the lights on than it does with the lights off.

It's crucial that the electric lights are designed for a low light level because then the natural light is able to compete. And the natural lighting has been shoehorned in so that it's all naturally lit.

Piers Gough Given that it's been designed by a Catalan who has just gained independence, it's interesting that it is very much about the Celtic of the Old Town rather than the European Enlightenment of the New Town.

Isabel Allen The folksiness makes it very much an Edinburgh building. It's difficult to imagine it in Glasgow, which is much more industrial.

Jack Pringle It's actually easier to imagine it in Dundee or Perth than it is in Glasgow.

Piers Gough In urban terms it makes brilliant sense of this part of Edinburgh; the MSPs' offices are tenemental segueing into the set piece towards Holyrood. It's surrounded by a lot of small buildings but it never dwarfs them. It's very at home with the domestic scale of this end of the Royal Mile.

Subcontractors and suppliers Hard landscaping O'Rourke; concrete substructure/frame O'Rourke; east site electrical Forth Electrical Services; west site electrical Rotary; mechanical plumbing east Rotary;

MSP roofing, MSP vent pods and assembly roofing Coverite; Queensberry House metal blast doors/windows Drawn Metals; Queensberry House raised floor and timber/vinyl finishes Bagpipes; WC fit-out and debating chamber fit-out Mivan; specialist glazing Mero; MSP timber windows Mero; soft landscaping Fountain Support Services;

ceilings/partitions Ultimate Finishing Systems; MSP carpentry/joinery Ultimate Finishing Systems; assembly rooflights Spacedecks; MSP screed/stone floors Vetter;

general building work Ogilvie Construction; front of house catering Design Counters;

audio and broadcast Tyco Integrated Systems; commissioning management Commtech;

scaffolding Lyndon Scaffolding; MSP bay windows Baydale Architectural Systems;

Queensberry House decorations Rolland Decorators; kitchen ventilation canopies Ventmaster; signage Wood & Wood; MSP precast mullions/assembly building brick/ blockwork Letrose; back of house catering Scobie McIntosh; radio and TV distribution/ camera and associated equipment Thomson Multi Media; ironmongery D Line

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.