Posted by: marymarthatours | February 24, 2010

The New Scottish Parliament Building

While on our M&M tour in Scotland, Castles and Gardens of Scotland, last September, the guided bus tour of Edinburgh took us past the new Scottish Parliament Building. Now this structure is what I like to call “radical architecture” and you can imagine that most folks don’t like it.

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Exterior of the new Scottish Parliament Building

My husband and I stayed on in Edinburgh for six nights after the M&M tour was over. It was our holiday time. We discovered that all but one of the Scottish people we talked to about their new Parliament Building do not like it. They had many reasons for their opinions:

  • Too expensive, went way over budget
  • Designed by a non-Scot
  • Dislike the site used for its location
  • Hate the design
  • Dislike the location of this style amid the Old Town architecture
  • Multiple problems with the plan and the construction
  • Demolition of an old brewery to clear the location site

And there are many reasons why I like this building:

  • Radical, new style architecture makes one react and respond
  • After 300 years without their own parliament, the Scots can look in new directions
  • This structure contains many metaphorical, symbolic elements relating to the history and origins of Scotland
  • The juxtaposition of its location amid the old architecture makes a statement about Scotland now and into the future
  • The budget sure shattered the stereotypical image of the Scots being tight with money: heck after 300 years, splurge

I consider good architecture to be three dimensional, functional art.  And in order to give an opinion about a building, one needs to see it from the inside as well as the outside, even better, experience it for the purpose for which it was built, e.g. go to a worship service in a great cathedral. My husband and I took a tour inside the New Scottish Parliament Building. It is quite a mix of areas and different spaces, and, at least for me, definitely a work of art. I could see why many folks don’t appreciate the building, but we loved it. At one point I remarked to the guide how I could see that the low ceiling entry hall was like the entry passages in the Neolithic cairns that one had to move through to get to the burial room. The passage way is a route to the new, after life, a kind of birth canal. He said to me, “You get it.”

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The Parliament entry hall and the Debating Chamber

I enjoy all eras of architecture, and I see little value in replicating the styles of past architectural periods, as the future calls us to change. I applaud those gutsy Scots who had the bravery to dare to create the New Scottish Parliament Building. Time will tell if future generations of Scots continue to dislike it. I hope it will come to symbolize a newness of nationhood and identity for them.

(by Martha)

To watch a nice video on Edinburgh with great shots of the Parliament Building: www.edinburgh.org/video

For more information on the Scottish Parliament Building:

1. www.scottish.parliament.uk (go to “visiting Holyrood” for photos and video tours)

2. www.galinsky.com/buildings/scottishparliament/index.htm 

For an excellent book on Scottish architecture through the centuries: Scottish Architecture, by Miles Glendinning and Aonghus MacKechnie

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