AD Classics: The Scottish Parliament / Enric Miralles

©Dave Morris Photography

Widely known for it’s extreme cost of construction, the Scottish Parliament is a remarkable example of incorporating architecture into it’s surroundings.

“The Parliament sits in the land. We have the feeling that the building should be land, built out of land. To carve in the land the form of gathering people together… is a land… The land itself will be a material, a physical building material…”

More on the Scottish Parliament by Enric Miralles after the break.

©Dave Morris Photography

Officially projected to cost around $750 million dollars, this required each Scottish adult to contribute nearly $6 million to accommodate all 129 members of the Parliament. This is what set ’ design apart from his other competitors; the nature of his design and the cooperation needed from those impacted most by the space emphasized its democratic nature more than the others.

©Andrew Gainer

60 percent of the urban site is covered in vegetation, which is but one of the democratic references made throughout the building’s design. The “assembly area” marked by grassy banks and open to the public reveal these democratic intentions, as do the dark inglenooks found in every MSP’s office. Narrow, swinged corridors and staircases were included to encourage casual interactions and to increase the circulation and steady flow of the layout in the debating chaber.

©Dave Morris Photography

The abstract nature of the forms found on the building are consistently stressed by the tour guides to be in the shape of “whatever you want them to be.” One of the more ubiquitous and characteristic shapes is featured on the facade to shade the windows; the freedom of deciphering what these symbols are or mean express an exercise in democracy.

©Dave Morris Photography

By the public entrance, saltire crosses sit embedded in the concrete vaults. The stepped gables along the Royal Mile are turned upside-down, and grey granite was found in a Scottish quary and used in the building. The complex construction of the roof of the debating chamber is made of tensile teel wires and steel-reinforced oak beams. This space has one many major architectural awards, including the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2005.

©Wikimedia Commons, Mogens Engelund

Architect: Enric Miralles
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Project Year: 1999-2004
Photographs: Dave Morris, Andrew Gainer, Wikimedia Commons
References: Caroline McCracken-Flesher, Charles Jencks

Cite: Sveiven, Megan. "AD Classics: The Scottish Parliament / Enric Miralles" 14 Feb 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 Aug 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    Proof reading would make this post considerbly more coherent, truly fascinating to hear that each scotish adult contributed 6 million dollars…

    • Thumb up Thumb down +1

      Yes, interesting to read that by this logic it would have cost $30billion….. Reckon there would have been a bit more of a fuss if that were the case

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    please, a little more rigour about the cost would be desirable considering the polemic around the project. It is important to say that the cost increase was due to an extension in the required surface, not only the architect’s fancy design.

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      Also, strict new security guidelines came into force quite far into the process, which meant an (expensive) rethink as to the layout, so that didnt help with the budget either.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    The Scottish Parliamentarians should be ashamed of their behaviour during the construction of the masterpiece. They and they alone are responsible for the spiralling costs and I believe could be accountable on a level for contributing to Miralles untimely death due to the demonisation he received throughout the UK causes by the Parliamentarians objections which undoubtedly had politically motivated means.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    please explain why this is a “masterpiece”? i think this is (yet another) example of a building praised by architects and loathed by the general public. i must be one of the few architects who dislike it. it doesn’t respond to context or history, it will age very badly, it combines too many elements, and quite frankly it looks cheap. it seems Miralles was going for the “Bilbao effect” in a city that doesn’t need it. there is nothing timeless or masterful about this.

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      dennis do you know edinburgh? for the rather conservative people it is something bined together with anything smelling new. But this building, unlike to the gugenheim (which I have visited three times as well) is totally integrated in its context. saw it this weekend from the hill above and it is amazingly mingled with the fragmentary old town, precisely for being so fragmented an varied in textures, shapes and responses to different sides. It even overlaps with existing buildings. The scale is as well appropirate

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      Enough said ;)

      And if I may, I’ll add that calling this ‘modern’ is a bit far-fetched. Yes, it is ‘contemporary’. We may also say that it is ‘de-constructivist’, ecletic, ‘neo-expressionist’, ‘neo-something-else’… But modern… not quite.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Very true Dan Donn. Dennis if u have been to the building and experience the building by urself u have all the right to say this building isn’t a masterful work, but if u don’t please do not judge the work just by the posted pictures. It requires a lot of skills to bring all this elements together and a unique masterpiece for Scotland

  6. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    very true Dan. And Den, if u have been to the building and experience the spaces and architecture you have all the right to comment the building isn’t masterful, but if u are not please do not judge the this building based on he posted pictures. It requires a masterful skills to bring up all this materials and creating this masterpiece for Scotland.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    I was there in 2007 guys and I didn’t like it sorry. I just think there are too many elements (just my opinion). maybe it will grow on me :)

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