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Holyrood building late and over-budget – but also award-winning

The building has won no fewer than nine leading architectural honours.

Enric Miralles cited upturned boats as one of the inspirations for the design of the Holyrood building (David Cheskin/PA)
Enric Miralles cited upturned boats as one of the inspirations for the design of the Holyrood building (David Cheskin/PA)

Scotland’s Parliament building has been both award-winning and highly controversial in the 20 years of devolution.

The modernist building, designed by Enric Miralles, is constructed from a mixture of steel, oak and granite and has won no fewer than nine leading architectural honours.

But the building, officially opened by the Queen in October 2004, more than five years after the first Scottish Parliament elections in May 1999, was also massively delayed and some 10 times over budget.

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Film star Sir Sean Connery at the opening of the Scottish Parliament building in 2004. (PA/PA Archive/PA Images)

Construction costs for the project mounted from an original estimate of about £40 million to £414 million.

The building opened some three years late, with MSPs mostly doing business at their temporary home at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh before then – with the politicians having to vacate the premises when the General Assembly sat.

A public inquiry, chaired by former lord advocate Lord Fraser, was set up in 2003 – before the building was even completed – to examine the delays and the Parliament’s escalating costs.

It concluded in September 2004, with Lord Fraser saying then that some of the early decisions which had been made about the handling of the project were “fundamentally wrong” and had led to “massive increases in costs and delays”.

The inquiry criticised the decision to use a construction management building method,  under which the client has full control but carries all the risk.

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The Queen being shown round Holyrood on opening day by then presiding officer Sir George Reid (PA/PA Archive/PA Images)

And Lord Fraser suggested the complexity and cost of the design by its Catalan architect, who died before the building was completed, had not been understood until it had been too late.

Miralles said his design drew inspiration from the surrounding landscape, the flower paintings of famous Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and upturned boats on the seashore.

Since opening it has received almost five million visitors, while the honours it has won include the Andrew Doolan Award for Architecture which is given to what is judged to be the best building in Scotland, in 2005.

It was awarded the prestigious Stirling Prize for architecture that same year, making it the first building in Scotland to win the accolade.

PA

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