Sunday, 11 April 2010

Great Buildings 2 - Scottish Parliament

Architecture is, by it's very nature, controversial. No other branch of Art and Design has as much impact on everyday life and the environment of towns and cities. Ally to that the fact the biggest projects are often publicly funded and the recipe for controversy is complete.

The Scottish Parliament building is one of the best examples of this. Popularly said to be 10 times over budget (although the "budget" figure used in this calculation was a rough estimate by civil servants for a debating chamber on land already owned by the state and even excluded VAT!), there is no doubt that the project was mis-managed right from the start.

The result, however, is a great building that sits comfortably in the landscape - see the pictures showing the grass strips that literally connect the building to the adjacent Royal Park. Seen from certain angles in the opposite direction, the building mirrors the natural forms of Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags.

Comment is often made about having such a modern building at the bottom of Royal Mile and opposite Holyrood House. Such comments overlook the presence of other modern buildings nearby and the fact that the building replaced a Victorian brewery.

The greatest triumph of the building is, perhaps, the debating chamber with it's beams of Oak jointed with Steel and the sky-lit lobby linking the MSP offices from the public areas.

Good architecture costs and great architecture even more so. What Enric Miralles achieved (although he didn't live to see it completed) is a world class building that is at once a tourist attraction, an iconic symbol of devolution and the political heart of Scotland.

Much more can be found in this excellent entry in Wikipedia.


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