Audio Point Thirteen – The Scottish Parliament Building.

A short sample from Edinburgh Audio Guide – Audio Point Thirteen.

The Scottish Parliament building.

The Scottish Parliament building is located at the bottom of the Royal Mile, on the edge of Holyrood Park with the spectacular extinct volcano of Arthur’s Seat in the background.

The original Parliament of Scotland existed from the early 13th century until 1707 when the Kingdom of Scotland merged with the Kingdom of England to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

In 1997, the Scottish people voted for Scotland to have a Parliament again.

Two years later, in May 1999 the first session of the parliament meeting was opened with the words, “The Scottish Parliament, adjourned on 25th March 1707, is hereby reconvened…”

The design of the new parliament building was chosen through an international competition that was held in the 1990s. The competition was won by a Spanish architect Enric Miralles.

Miralles’ design was selected as the winning entry because it was considered to be the most innovative and compelling among the submissions. The design was also seen as being well-suited to the unique cultural and historical context of the site – at the foot of the Royal Mile and next to the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland.

Enric Miralles had a very difficult task – the parliament buildings should naturally blend with the surrounding landscape and merge with medieval streets and landmarks of the Old Town.

The building should also represent the connection between the Scottish people and their land, be functional and meet the needs of the parliament.

The construction of the new parliament building started in June 1999.

In 1998 the original estimate for this project was about £40 million. As the construction progressed the cost spiralled out of control and soared to £430 million.

After 5 years of construction with many delays, review and design changes the new parliament was finally opened by Queen Elizabeth II in October 2004.

The result is one of Scotland’s most controversial works of architecture. The building was praised by the architects from around the world as a masterpiece of post modernism and perhaps the finest work of Enric Miralles’.

The general public did not like the building as much as architects and academics. Its modern and complicated architecture with extensive use of concrete, steel, wood and glass is thought to be too modern to fit into medieval Old Town and the Royal Mile.

In a TV poll, the new parliament was voted one of the ugliest buildings in the UK.

Despite the controversy, the Scottish parliament is well worth visiting. Its spacious modern interior with many symbolic elements that evoke a sense of connection to the land and to Scotland’s past is clearly of substance.

The Scottish Parliament Building is open to public access 6 days a week and admission is free.