alan balfour

Creating a Scottish Parliament
Finlay Brown- 2005

⇒ Purchase Creating a Scottish Parliament on Finlay Brown ⇐

CHAPTER 1 - Deliverance Comes::
Alan Balfour

‘At the end of most streets of Edinburgh’s Old Town rises the crimson wall of Salisbury Craigs a lesson in the unimaginable forces and lapses of time which have gone to shape the world. The Craigs are a basalt intrusion, a fossil tide of volcanic rock which surged through the foundations of a dead volcano some 200 million years ago. Geology and paleontology, with their revelations of deep time and alien life-forms, towered up wherever 19th century Scots turned their eyes. The ‘testimony of the rocks’ threatened their moral universe, its narrative incompatible with a creation myth or even with a creator ….Old Edinburgh is shaped like a gigantic lecture theater with the end wall covered by a chart of the earth’s origins. (1)

‘STONE VOICES’ Neal Ascherson

The New Parliament of Scotland is the most recent strata in the wake of this fossil tide, and the most human. It is an original and significant work of public architecture - a work of world distinction. In conceptual ambition and visceral presence it has no equal in Scottish history.

At the presentation that awarded the commission the architect Enric Miralles stated his fundamental concept for the Parliament the building should originate from the sloping base of Arthur’s Seat and arrive into the city almost out of the rock (2). Miralles in an interview given when the Scottish Parliament was much in his mind described his conceptual process you're not just working with the physical reality of the moment, but with the physical reality of everything that has been there as well, or that has built up the place (3).

Architecture can have far wider and longer lasting influence than any other work of art. Works of national architecture are explicitly constructed to last centuries and are always in performance. Fashion, fate and the market determines the life of a work of music (4), of a painting or sculpture or writing for the theater, as they have evolved into primarily consumer products. Rarely in the commissioning of a work of art is there an explicit demand for permanence and even more rarely is it asked to embody lasting values that will affect and shape national identity (5). In its highest form this is the task for architecture (6).

A work such as this is shaped to be inspiration and instrument, stage and play. Architecture is unavoidable stage and play, by necessity it has to attempt in forming the stage to anticipate the plays that it will carry. Strong architecture unavoidably influences the players. Long before it became a reality, the future acts of the Scottish Parliament were acted out in the imagination of the architect. As he shaped every space he would imagine it in performance and the results gave rise to patterns of space and activity. In the creation of such architecture the language that initiates a concept is slowly dispensed with and distilled down to a gesture, and that gesture becomes the physical form of the building, (and that embodiment that in essence is human.) In an interview in 1995 he said the term empathy you propose is very appropriate. I think I often work by empathy or by identification with the objects I produce. I often imagine people moving around the building, moving through walls and pillars like in the field of forces in which the occupants out of an integral part of it (7).

By 1998 Miralles had emerged as a forcefully original architectural imagination. His EMBT Studio, consisted of Enrique Miralles, and Benedetta Tagliabue, his partner since the early 90’s and his wife, (before that his partnership had been with his previous wife Carme Pinos). The project that had gained most attention was the Igualada Cemetery, but all the work of the H had been carefully reported in major European magazines over the previous decade. There were several published monographs and major exhibitions had been held in Europe, the United States and Japan. He was as much in demand as a teacher as he was a practitioner. He held the Chair in Architecture at the Barcelona School, was Director of the Master Class at the Stadelschule in Frankfurt and was given the Kenzo Tange Chair at Harvard in 1992 (8). At the time of the competition he was one of but a handful of truly original imaginations world wide.

For Miralles this process of distilling down to a gesture was achieved by tracing and retracing an idea over and over until it became something other than itself. In an interview in 1995 he said the work of repetition is very important to the production of the embodiment or of an idea, it is the longest task, for the architecture becomes recognizable beyond the specific initial data. I work with constructive, not visual criteria, and so repetition is extremely important. Each new sketch is an operation in oblivion or in the laws that are generated have an internal coherence (9).

And the distillation of the months of thought that had formed his concept for the parliament lay on the thirteen sheets of flimsy tracing paper that he placed before Donald Dewar in the final presentation to the competition jury on June 22nd 1998 (10). (The finalists had been selected on May 7th). Donald Dewar a Labor Member of Parliament and at that time Secretary of State for Scotland had led the cause for Scotland’s relative independence, its devolution.

Miralles ignored most of the elaborate models, and photomontages mounted on the walls around him, concentrating his energy instead on a sequence of hand drawn studies he had prepared, which would give life to the essential ideas from which he would form the parliament. All the ideas on these flimsy sheets remained present in the work as it evolved and still define the essential character of the architecture as constructed. What follows is a close reading of these drawings. They present a rare opportunity to enter into a creative mind. They were literally drawn out of scrapbooks. In preparing for the work he had wandered the streets of Edinburgh old and new then driven on the company of an inspired guide the length and breadth of Scotland photographing and scribbling notes and images as he went (11). He was a great admirer of the Scottish people he felt they had an affinity with his own Catalan character, and he had both studied and taught in Scotland over the years (12). He came to Jury with two overarching concepts that would guide all his composing; es un lugar mental the parliament is a form in the peoples mind, and el Parliamento se reune en la Terra the Parliament sits in the land.

These were the days in which all five of the finalists were presenting to the jury. On arriving Miralles thought the layout of the room was too inquisitorial so he immediately set about rearranging the furniture to give the room a more congenial atmosphere. To someone who was there, it was a surprisingly personal performance, high in theater and emotion. At certain points he would move from the sketches to pick up one of the exquisite balsa wood models which as he fingered and described what it meant to him, it became precious – he would then hand it to the jury. No one on that day could have imagined that the two principle architects of the Scottish Parliament: Miralles the builder, and Dewar the politician, would be dead before construction would begin.

There were thirteen drawings in all, three introductory drawings established major themes and then a series of ten overlays portrayed the evolution of the idea as a series of orchestrations derived from the land and the city.

The first of three introductory drawings is dominated by a view of the site of the parliament from Arthur’s Seat (traced from a photograph). From the hillside in the foreground he has drawn the branches of a tree whose three leaves dominate the page as they settle beside a soft tracing of the outline of the 17th century mansion – Queensbury House (the decision had already been taken to restore). The leaves suggest forms and rhythms rippling around and flowing into this place.

The text on all the drawings are written both as instructions to himself and key thoughts. The key text attends three interlocking circle marked A, B, and C below are the key elements; A. Main Chamber, B. Committee Rooms, C. Public Presentations. Below this, after commenting on the dominance of committees, he calls for some more dialogue between rooms, and looking at the drawing it seems that as he writes he sees an image that would be a form of dialogue. Along side the text he draws a little cluster of leaves, the first traces of forms which eventually will become the central figures. Consider that he sees in his minds eye the association between such spaces as leaves on a branch as he makes a tiny drawing at the conclusion of the text. The form of the leaves begin to assume larger significance as he draws, the leaves on the right dominating the page. Look closely at the drawing, at the edge of each leaf is a tiny letter A,B, C, and then to the left a key: ‘A, the Main Chamber, B, a little leaf for the Public and C, the Committees. He writes that this sketch is more useful at the moment of taking formal decisions. It seems a metaphor, and it is almost a technical statement.

He explains the significance of the metaphor of the leaves;
the building of the parliament should sit in the place
with same logic and delicacy that organizes vegetal [sic] forms
leaves x trees
had always been an example’

Beneath that he notes Remember Macintosh reminding himself and the jury that natural forms were a driving source of inspiration for Macintosh,’ his last statement now the building should follow. The implication is quite specific with this metaphorical insight the parliament will evolve

Having offered a metaphorical vision the second sheet evokes - rather self consciously – a political vision in the three images again traced from photographs. On the left a lone figure is sitting on steps which become landscape with a terse note the body gestures. Below that is a lively tracing of a seated formal gathering titled The Highland Council meeting, between is the enigmatic statement: Two faces of the same attitude. On the right of the page a careful copy of a famous photograph from the 1900’s, The St Kilda Parliament, the elected leaders of the tiny and remote island of St Kilda, (revived in the cultural imagination in Douglas Dunn's 1980 novel of the same name) (13). This image has great strength for him, he writes:

Late XIX St Kilda Parliament
To Remember this is not an archaic activity
My generation (myself0 has experienced that emotion
Consider how different movements exist in present times
Architecture should be able to talk about this

These are offered not as nostalgic history but as a modest political ideal. These three portrayals; the individual, the Highland Council, the St Kilda Parliament he would have the architecture embrace, or in his words the organization of forms should mirror this.

At the center of the drawing he writes

‘I imagine that a parliament building should be organic like a university campus
A special kind of knowledge produces Parliament’s need to have different
Places where to think to talk to walk

Across the middle of the page he holds a brief Socratic exchange; what form should it take? He replies;

The palace could not be a model
The Dome should not be a model

here it must be Foster’s Reichstag that was in his mind, rather than the United States Capital. He concludes that form may lie in The Monastery with its cloister of connections and independent constructions (the emphasis is Miralles.) Along side this he offers a vague drawing of the diagram for the Old College of Edinburgh University moving from one place to another has to have specific meaning he observes, this must not be one building but an accumulation of buildings each given distinct character, function and construction. These are not casual observations but specific instructions for him when sees in a metaphor or mix of metaphors the gesture that will shape the stage he locks into it.

The last of the introductory drawings seems to be a late edition. He may have been reacting to critical comments in the press that this foreigner was going to make the Scotland Parliament look like upturned boats (English boats at that (14)). He writes

I’m very happy that these boats had come in the newspapers …
They are an image the ‘illuminates’ problems
They are not a fast solution.
Afraid people might assume that he had been tempted to shape parliament in their image. Yet he does acknowledge the usefulness of the form:
The boats…
of our first conversations
come back in a natural way …
Again they will help to decide when we
Think about chambers…
They are a wonderful example to follow
Besides the more conceptual approach

The drawings on the page are in pencil - no color- and not as finished as the other sheets. A diagonal stream of lines crosses the page from the top left; and ends in a cluster of figures, leaves in plan but despite his protestations above they are unmistaken in the form of upturned boats. However, the most curious figure on the page is the large drawing on the left. It is strange that so early in the design process he has such a clear image of the main chamber (the Assembly) that he feels he must draw it. It is a significant mark, not for its boat like section, but for the extensive screened skylight the rises up behind the dais, an idea that survives into construction. (However at the time of the interview the bats were not public, and this drawing may have been added to the set later for exhibition (15)).

At the foot of the drawing he returns to his major preoccupation The Scottish Parliament should find different building strategies according to different parts’ he continues ‘our proposal is trying to do it – it is not a single building it is an orchestrated series of constructions

He proceeds to ask WHY NOT ONE BUILDING? [Miralles caps] and answers A single building will have scale serious problems at the site.

(Elsewhere he adds Every part of the building should have the organizational form which is most coherent to its use.)

He then begins to present the set of overlays through which he will literally draw out the conceptual form of the Parliament. Layer upon layer, a palimpsested sequence of ideas from which the essential architecture will emerge. The content is in the drawings, the notes merely a guide to the thought process.

Immediately he states his purpose The aim of these remember to find the common characteristics of the site and the land and from these develop an iconography of the building of the parliament.’ At the top is an abstract passage a vague memory of Arthur’s Seat the figure flows into a most careful tracing of the West side of Reid’s Close seen from above (Reid’s Close is an ancient path the lane that runs from the Canongate to Holyrood Road). As he draws he can feel the scale and the material of the place, he notes ‘granite’ ‘gray’ and…’small passages.’ He adds enigmatically ‘like to remember stones pile in the fields.

The second layer; Reid’s Close from above is repeated but now it faces a new and strange intrusion a long amorphic object, the form of a building is emerging, alongside he descends to ground level to offer a specific description of how he sees these undulating walls. Behind is a swiftly drawn profile of the hills. He writes the new building should…react to distant mountain profiles and reflect the changing conditions of light. He is drawing what his minds eye sees clearly, and as he empathizes with the qualities of the place he develops a visceral sense of a material presence, different kinds of stone he notes. The drawings are a fragile expression of the complex marriage of poetry, materials and utility out of which an architecture will emerge.

The third layer again repeats the trace of Reid’s Close and the long undulating mass that has been formed in mind as a reflection of it. But the vignette is charged by a very precise drawing of Queensbury House, all still viewed from above. What at first seemed to be careful consideration of the actual place is instead a convenient rearrangement. This to allow the scale of Canongate to infuse his thoughts in shaping the body of the parliament – the Canongate in fact runs across the face of Queensbury house. And it is on the page that he realizes that the restoration of this 17thc mansion will as he notes, add scale and precision to the project. He explores this by imagining the view from within the old house of the new parliament, an exact drawing, a view from a window. It is the same building he writes …fragment of the city, real scale, the buildings he notes like neighbors , not monumental. (his underline.)

Fourth has Queensbury House traced again in softest outline. Here his interest is in the walls and gates that once enclosed a formal garden. On the left he created an imaginary garden from the evidence of a few surviving engravings. In between the walls he writes it is possible to dream,…a resting place. He colors the garden as a 18th century formal garden and allows wistful lines of desire to flow from the site into the park. At this stage in his thinking the surviving and restored historical buildings are allowed to frame the new work.

At the fifth level what was a void in the view of Queensbury house in the fourth becomes a garden riotously in bloom. He is captivated by the noble presence the house will give to the parliament, captivated by recreating a magic garden at the center. He draws as he was sketching from life on a spring morning. The house, a wispy outline in the distance the garden a patchwork of plantings and forms, ‘The cloister garden’ he writes ‘should reflect the personality of parliament.’ Though not noted on the drawings those around remember his brief enthusiasm for matching the color of the flowers to colors of the political parties, (carefully planted, one would assume, in proportion to party representation and subject to fluctuations in political fortune). He was dreaming of a garden formed from a salad of Scottish landscapes in miniature ‘..a structured pattern coming from land cultivation’. Though as the plans evolved and the parliament grew larger, the garden is one of the few themes present at the beginning that does not evolve. The garden is evidence of the early desire for a compounding of reality at the center that finally results in the spectacular invention of the member’s foyer.

Layer six has a deliberate and powerful character. Canongate has gone - it has served its purpose as a register. Now the complete and careful drawing of Queensbury House, is flanked on either side with long figures formed from undulating masses. Starting in the upper left and thrusting diagonally across the page a swath of green ends in a concentrated knuckle alongside

The drawing illustrates not a probable reality but a conceptual dilemma -by what gesture can the spirit of the natural landscape, flowing from the park, be driven into the parliament. The force of the stream of landscape makes the suggested figure round Queensbury House tentative and stoic. At the end of this muscle of landscape he writes This construction, referring to the abstract passage of land, answers some of the questionsThe building sits on the land, The people sit on the land (16) the land and the people and the parliament are one. Below that he writes:

‘The Scottish Parliament!
The scale of it

The relation between text and image reinforces the meaning; here is a cry from the heart. On the right of the page he writes from now on we need to be more abstract. And then explains perhaps to himself give a more technical definition. The last words on the page (The previous page is not ashamed of this one), the parenthesis are his.

True to his word the final four pages move out of the descriptive into a thrilling display of his first attempts to spatialize the concept. Remember what is being explored is a possible condition of experienced reality, structure and accommodation are never absent but they are subservient to this need to reveal, distill significant form from the essence of the context. His actions are laying the basis for discovering a landscape unique to this place.

By the seventh layer a man and a woman sit on the passage of land that flows across the page, but here it lands directly in the center of the complex; gone are Queensbury house and the tentative structures that flanked it and in their place the landform flows into an extraordinary figure, red, awkward, almost pulsating the heart of parliament. On close inspection it is an assembly chamber and tiny figures crowd the terraces. He writes the parliament belongs to the land. And as he draws he finds both confirmation and deep satisfaction in what he has drawn, he writes:

It was the idea expressed on these pages that gave a way to follow
Seating together
Seating together at different scales
Seating at the land

On the corner of this sheet Miralles feels the need to reveal something of his creative process he adds:

‘Note; you have a word:
EMBODIMENT [his emphasis]
that we [do] not have
It explains:
this identification through body gesture
Understood through body.’

As he draws and imagines this place, his being is consumed by it, he mimes it with gesture and movement; he wills it’s presence out of his own physicality. It is crucial to meditate on the iconography of our parliament he writes, and each of these little drawings are explicit products of his meditation, the drawing carries content that has no words.

This is a work shaped to survive the centuries, to assume layers of meaning from the political center of the nation. Its nature its appropriateness, its significance as architecture is formed on these pages.

[In respect to service to the historical record I offer a highly detailed reading of drawings that are key to understanding the composer and more importantly the composition.]

He steps aside from the conceptual narrative on this page and offers editorial note, on the public character of the parliament. He notes, alongside a little drawing of fish in a bowl that ‘glass isolates … it [creates] a kind of fishbowl.’ Presumably he again has the German Reichstag in mind where Foster assembled the German parliament beneath a glass dome open to the sky and overlooked by a generous public processional and gallery. For Miralles, political debate should not be merely a public spectacle. The main chamber must hold and enhance a concentration of speech. He was wholly in support of the requirement that the new parliament support and enhance the transactions of the lawmakers, but that the public dissemination of their deliberations depend not on the architecture of the building but on the most ambitious use of electronic media; from the simple access through television to personal engagement available to every citizen through the interactivity of the web.

The eighth level is a beautiful and elegiac drawing, all the elements of the composition are becoming clear to him. It shows how effortlessly this intersection of ideas can be held in balance. The drawing implies once again a landscape sweeping across the page but forward movement is blocked by parliament and comes to a staggering stop, folding and buckling space beneath a winged structure. The flash of the green landform and the winged structure in blue are flanked by a passage of water formed from the echoes of this disturbance. Though abstracted, it is again a tracing of the site seen from above but only the essential forces are represented. The discreet numbers mark the salient edges of this fantasy 1, 2, 3 are explained in a tiny note. 1 the slashing passage of green is the land, 2 the agitated patch of blue is water, and lastly the complex folded structure is the air. And at the point where in the future the main chamber will evolve, they almost fuse together.

Though abstract in effect they are tangible elements in the formation of architecture. From past experience Miralles knows how to take such slender gestures of forces in harmony and evolve them into a concrete material reality. Here is evidence of the limits of language in the composition of new reality. Forcing the landscape to play out in his imagination allowed him to conceive of this turbulent conclusion in a folded translucent plane, as is held in check, beneath a great glass roof. In his imagination he has placed himself standing high above this place when he writes: ‘We will talk about a Public Concourse/ MSP Concourse…A gallery covering and crossing where the geography of Scotland could be shown, A Gallery of Maps’

Nine is a less certain more reflective coda; maybe a response to the appearance of water on eight. On eight this force field, act of nature has a completeness when all the elements are present so water has to finds its place in the landscape and the River Trumble re emerges. The Trumble was a little river lost to history which once flowed on or near this place. (Not totally lost, the presence of the Parliament has discovered it in a culvert beneath site and it manages to find its way into the Firth of Fourth). Miralles again offers the bird’s eye view of the site tracing all the surrounding building on the Canongate but here extending the view out buildings of the Palace. The actual site is empty save for the wraith of green and the pools carried over from the previous drawing. On the left he carefully represents the course of the Trumble from an early map of the city. The site is strangely empty and silent, as if waiting for the river to reemerge and finds its level. On the map the river flows out of the Canongate passing by the place of parliament. There may once have been a lake here and this teases his imagination to represent the outbuildings to the palace reflected in a sheet of water. This is not archeology but a conceptual need for make all the elements of nature surround and define this place. He seeks the essence, ‘The Old Edinburgh in its hostile environment was indeed symbolic of all lowland Scotland the surface of which was pitted with meres and lochans [sic]’

The tenth and final layer begins with the note ‘this page is not a final page – just the overlapping of previous ones. The parliament should have the same intensity in all parts , different but not unbalanced.’ And as if to confirm this the upturned boats and the view from Arthur’s Seat reappear. The Trumble is retraced but fades into insignificance in the margins of the glorious recollection of all that has gone before. Here all concepts come together to form a new reality for parliament, the sweeping landform leads the forces of nature into the site from the south to be met and held by the resolute bulk of Queensbury House. The collision produces an explosive effect, bubbling space into a series of massive volumes (still reminiscent of leaves and upturned boats) dominated by the great chamber for the new Scottish Parliament. The drawing vibrates with intensity of the engagement and in the void between Parliament and the old house and the soaring warped plane transparent as the air. A parliament formed out of the resolution between the land and the city between nature and history between the past and future.

He ends with a command:
To balance
land and city
at the Parliament Building
the iconography should come out of that….

He ended by giving each of the jury the gift of a little flip book formed from the reduction of the sketches that let them play with the image of the building emerging from the slopes of Holyrood Park. The jury was enthralled.

All these forces were kept in play as the design progressed, however for many months the space between the Assembly cluster and Queensbury House never came close to the commanding force of the conceptual flourish until he found its form in the last months of his life.

Many of the same elements were in formal presentation yet they seem more diffuse and distant than in the sketches. However some of the texts add clarity. The parliament he writes should define the end of the Canongate as more than just a construction along a street. It must reinforce the existing qualities of the place . To the idea of the parliament sitting on the land he adds This is a way of marking the conceptual distance from Holyrood Palace. Whereas the Palace is a building situated on the landscape …the new Scottish Parliament would sit within the land. .. Instead of an overwhelming monument which only relates to dimensions and rhetorical forms. He asked himself and the jury How is it going to be FUNDAMENTALLY DISTINCTIVE from other parliaments? The answer is in the drawings.

This was a mature creative mind that was highly aware of how he composed. From the El Croquis interview in 1995 he said I'm not interested at all in allusive reality, the connections are made backwards in time, or towards history, or forwards towards a utopia; or towards a given paradigm or language… what interests me or is a sort of incorporation of infinite integration….

On July 7, 1998 the commission to design the Scottish parliament was awarded to EMTB of Barcelona in association with RMJM of Edinburgh. EMBT are the initials Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue (his partner and wife) RMJM is a venerable Scottish based international practice named after its founders Robert Matthews and Stirrat Johnson-Marshal. Eric Miralles close associate in RMJM was Michael Duncan, who with his co-director Brian Stewart have been central to the creative process (17).

All the conceptual and compositional elements that were present in the winning submission would be under continuous and subtle transformation between the award of the commission in 1998 and the completion of the final approved design in June of 2000. They would not remain undiminished rather they became clearer and more vital as the months went by.

[edit] All the conceptual and compositional elements that shape the new parliament were present at the conclusion of the competition. Over the next two years these would evolve and gradually assume the physical forms that together form the new parliament. The brief expanded with the ambitions of the Scottish executive yet the conceptual structure held and evolved.

The only part of the complex completely designed at the meeting of May 1999 was the MSP Wing, (Members of the Scottish Parliament Wing) They occupy a disciplined block running at a right angle to the Canongate on the west side of Queensbury House. Miralles sought to convey the sense of the building as a series of individuals. The parliament should not have the appearance of an office building he declared. Each MSP has a vaulted cell which on every floor enters on one side into a grand corridor the main communication room – conversations in passing – comments. And on the other there are individual windows which become seating balconies. These seating balconies are an original and powerful architectural invention. Each cell has a projected bay on the west wall, exactly in the form of a seat, each slightly different, a seat in which each parliamentarian is alone yet surrounded by the city and the landscape. Inside the window seat and the flowing forms embossed in the vault ceiling cause an intriguing disturbance to each MSP office. Outside the mass of window seats create a dense vertical landscape, a three dimensional tapestry ordered in the mass yet infinitely varied in the detail. The idea was encourage in Miralles mind by the way the John Knox House juts out of alignment giving a subtle game of cross views and political implications (18). (There is the presence of another Scottish personage in their making; Miralles was fond of Sir Henry Raeburn’s painting of the Reverent Robert Walker Skating on Duddingstone Loch and there is hint of his profile in shaping the profile of the bays).

These broad corridors were conceived as a space carved out of a solid and a vault brings light and air from the east into each MSP cell. The east face of the wing is equally original as the clustering of window seats in the west: a swashbuckling of modeling with ventilation sockets cut back to the line of the cell vaults assisting cross ventilation and a quirky geometric pattern of drainage hoppers and gutters in stainless steel carrying rainwater, which criss-cross diagonally down the façade. Yet to be heard but anticipated will be the harmonies produced by the cascades of water in the heavy rains of Edinburgh. Such invention, far from being indulgent, is the product of a vision that would use this element to create a metaphorical representation of unity and difference in the community of the MSP’s. The MSP suite is one of the four formative stages that combine to shape the play of the parliament. Miralles wrote I characterize this building as a series of individuals. This place is consciously shaped by the body. He engaged in a form of predictive stage management as he would mentally move with the MSP’s out of the building onto the courtyard, it is not difficult to imagine he wrote, pensive thoughts outside the building with thoughts running through the mind –seeking the help of a reflective walk during a pensive situation.

While the final form of the Chamber remained undecided at the May 1999 presentation, the space it would sit on, the public foyer was complete. In all its wayward detail it seems both to support and even threaten the Assembly. Miralles anticipated that public foyer will have a very strong impact on the Public’s view of the Parliament. It is formed beneath long vaults whose surface is incised with a meandering scatter of huge St Andrews crosses. There are generous curving cuts through the vaults letting light into the public passage and scarping the underside of the assembly. Miralles wrote the vaulted space is lit by deep light wells where many different light conditions occur, east light, evening light and direct views to the nearby hills. The room, however, feels subterranean, yet it does possess an ancient archaic feeling. The entry passes under a slender extensive canopy that is shaped as a non monument - it is as if the skin of the Assembly floor had been pulled out to embrace the public. The result is an effect in which the Chamber rests on the people rather than in the land; a strange and visceral connection between the people and the politician, a kind of dependency one upon the other.

After May of 1999 the complex cluster of leaf shaped volumes housing every from the Assembly and the committees to the administration and the press remained confused and unresolved as they jostled to find coherence, both in function and effect. Miralles plunged into months of adjusting and readjusting the arc of members seating to find the form that would most effectively support the debate in the Scottish Assembly. Physically, operationally and in the public imagination the Scottish Parliament was expected to be radically different from both Westminster and the Capital in Washington. By plan debate in the Scottish Chamber would have neither the oppositional structure that so marks British parliamentary behavior nor the imperial semicircle that forces the US senate to sit at the pleasure of the vice president. He knew what had to be found:

For the quality of the debate
It is important that not only the
MSP’s could embrace each other, but also
The Room should embrace them

On 13 May 1999 Donald Dewar was named First Minister of Scotland a week after the election of the first Scottish Parliament.

As design developed, the curve of seating became overextended and the ends were folded in to form an awkward termination. It was far from the effect he sought. In a document prepared in May of 1999 Scottish Parliamentary Explanatory Document, Miralles’ conceptual inspiration for the form of the Chamber and the Committee Rooms was never more explicit; a cluster of slender branches run diagonally across the page to the three leaves, the largest exactly where the Assembly will be (it is the same image that he used as a sketch for the Jury). His notes on the page state that he seeks an equilibrium and richness between the rooms and the users. I do not imagine a parliament dominated by either a cupola or a debating chamber beneath it. At this time the debating chamber found its appropriate form (a form much present in Miralles earlier work) – an arch though in plan shaped from an arc and two tangents; a tense curve which would bring all members of the assembly in contact one with another. A tense curve resolved the major concern to the politicians that the ends of the hall were too far from the middle; that those unfortunate enough to be so seated would somehow be at a disadvantage – too far from the center to be noticed. When the new arrangement was laid over the rectangular formalities of the Parliament’s temporary quarters in the Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland, the politicians quickly noticed the obvious difference in the new Chamber they would never be physically in opposition to one another. It was also clearly a form able to accommodate whatever mix of (currently seven) political parties were elected to serve Scotland (a rainbow coalition as David McCrone has called it). The same search for individuality marked the shaping of the committee rooms. Each capped by semi domes which are carved into and burst with light; Miralles was deliberate Each are individual rooms, not one more of a series.

All was becoming firm, however the penetration of the landscape into the heart of the complex had yet to find its form. For a brief period the development drawings began to lose their conceptual force; missing was that climactic point – suggested in the conceptual sketch – a rippling field of energy at the center.

From 17 November 1999 – 1 February 2000 the program expanded which caused much readjusting but no major change in character. On the contrary it gave rise to a brilliant final flourish in the composition.

This most brilliant amendment to the design was conceived in February/March of 2000; the creation of a Members Foyer. It came in response to the sudden need for more space and strong pressure from Historic Scotland to cause less destruction to the interior of Queensbury House, to retain more of its historic form. The previous plan for Parliament had carved open the street level of the old house to create a passage linking the MSP wing to the Assembly. This being denied the only alternative was to build a passage of space into the garden. Pure serendipity – forcing the creation of a structure in the garden gave a context within which to produce a conceptual climax to the intersection of land and air; the resolution of the penetration of the park and the Crags into the heart of the complex. In his first drawing from February/ March 2000, Miralles sees a dense canopy of leaf forms - precisely drawn – to cover the space; this would evolve into an undulating sequence of arched metal structures carrying generous skylights, creating an astonishing space There is one fragile drawing of this complex, three-dimensional swarm of structures. They are described in the drawing effortlessly, almost casually; with the radii and tangents set out with such precision that it would translate unaltered into the extraordinary structure that has resulted. This is a wholly original experience whose intentions are as much social as visual.

It is the restless dynamic heart of the political community and endless changing in the light. It is ambiguous; open to endless interpretation; infinitely shifting experience both of the stage and the players. It is the final evolution of the winged figure representing air in the final drawing to the Jury. It is a restlessness place never predictable or easy to know. .As the idea crystallized he was concerned with the loss of the garden and considered having the swath of grass rolling in from the park to rise up and over it but this was not developed. The final resolution allows the lawmakers to move from the foyer into the sheltered garden beneath the cascading face of the MSP wing which flows into the rib of landform that follow the path of the earliest drawing into Holyrood Park

Early in 2000 Miralles was diagnosed with a tumor in his brain. All was done to help and on the advice of friends he went to Texas for treatment. From his hospital bed in Houston, Miralles faxed the teams in Edinburgh and in Barcelona expressing happiness both with the final project as it was presented and with all those who had worked with him. Transcript of the fax from Enric Miralles, Houston, 28 March 2000
John [Gibbons], Mick [Duncan], Brian [Stewart] (The architects first) [sic]

A picturesque doctor will operate me on Wednesday but I will send a note for the debate.
I like them to read if I’m not\
Maybe is not very Scottish!

A project, the making of a project is a learning process.
To learn to be together.
The kindness of each other or to hear from each other …
For that reason the newspaper cartoons are excellent.

“The Spanish man selling ice cream to the beach …” but this is not the reality.
A very good group of people closed is EMBT RMJM
And I think we have been doing an excellent job,
We have created a piece of Scotland.
The way the building merges the history with the landscape is very good.
We are in the middle point.
The project is ready
(Could be cheaper,
a bit smaller…) but the project is ready.
do not be afraid.
Scots never are (or so they said)
I hope to be able to see you at the debate
And open the building together if
God allows.
The team will help overcome
We are in contact.
I like to say something.
The lobby is a fantastic piece… is the only way. Queensbury is not an isolated object.
The heart of the complex and give energy…offering a listening chamber
to be like a lamp in to the scotch landscape.

Final Design Approval was given on June 20, 2000, and on July 4, 2000 Enric Miralles Died. He died two weeks later. Work had to proceed, yet the loss was enormous, designing in detail continued after his death both Edinburgh and Barcelona committed to preserving every element of the design.

The Parliament exists in the fusion between the topography of the Park and the structure of the City; embedded in the geological and social history of the palace. Its form neither a preconceived portrait nor representation, but drawn out of the physical residue of the place and the multiple performances of parliament. This Parliament is an assembly of parts, informal, decentralized; an inhabited landscape metaphorically embodying the culture of Scotland. The individual and the collective brought together in metaphorical landscape landform straining to echo the physical and the cultural landscape of Scotland. This set of conceptual instruction results in a work of architecture which is - informal, internally directed, introverted on the ground yet drawing in the sky, ahistorical, unfashionable, unstylish, and wholly original. The result is a sequence of stages redolent with quiet dramas and mysteries which will insinuate themselves into the imaginations of those who come to form the future of the nation.

The musical analogy: a wholly new and untried instrument which will magnify and harmonize the music of national desire. Its marvelous promise is given life to me in the Lois MacNeice poem The Autumn Journal:

What is it we want really?
For what end and how
If it is something feasible obtainable
Let us dream it now
And pray for a possible land
Not of sleep walkers, not of angry puppets [?]
But where both heart and brain can understand
The monuments of our fellows
Where life is a choice of instruments and none
Is debarred his natural music…’

and the new parliament itself an instrument formed in the out of the culture, the city and the land, and a wholly original instrument, never before played with a capacity for making the national music that demands imagination.

On October 11 2000 Donald Dewar died at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, as the result of a brain hemorrhage. In April 2000, he had been diagnosed with heart problems and, in May, underwent surgery to replace a leaking heart valve, (he was still recovering when he heard of Miralles death).

As he stood on the scaffold facing death in 1677, the Covenanter martyr James Renwick declared ‘There is a great storm coming which shall try your foundations, Scotland must be rid of Scotland before the deliverance comes.’ Devolution has rediscovered Renwick and the bitter irony in his words are seen as a challenge to the all who belief in the promise of independence.

1 -Neal Ascherson THE STONE VOICES The Search for Scotland Hill and Wang a division of Farra, Straus Giroux New York 2002
2 EMBT RMJM documents
3 Enric Miralles in conversation with Emilio Tunon & Luis Moreno Mansilla
The last interview before his death in June of 2000
EL Croquis
4 The problem with the musical analogy is that it works perfectly with Beethoven but with very few contemporary composers John Adams in the US Boulez in France, yet perhaps there are as few major architects as there are composers. Miralles was 44 when he died there are no major composers as young
5 This was particularly evident in the trivial quality of so many of the submissions for the memorial on the site the WTC. There are exceptions James Tyrell being the most obvious in the US and what of Ian Hamilton Findlay.
6 The last decade of the 20th century saw major works in Berlin, London, Los Angels, and Balboa garner enormous world interest. These then are the best of times for the unveiling of a significant work of political architecture.
8 I met him when he considered replacing me as Chairman of the Architectural Association in London, after my decision to return to the US in 1996
9 a conversation with Enric Miralles
el croquis ? 1995
In discussion with Alejanadro Zaera
10 Donald Dewar's jury was; Dr John E Gibbons, Director of Building Scottish Office; Joan O'Connor Architect, Past President RIAI; Robert Gordon, Head of Construction Group Scottish Office; Kirsty Wark, Journalist & Broadcaster; Professor Andy McMillan, Head of Macintosh School of Architecture.
11 Ibid
12 He had studied English in Edinburgh as a young man and was a popular visiting critic at the Macintosh school in Glasgow years before the competition. He had a deep fondness for the work of the Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, seeing parallels in it to the Catalan architect? Gaudi; The Mackintosh School is still Mackintosh’ greatest work.
13 The 35 people who lived on Hirta, the largest of the islands, were evacuated in 1930, thus ending settlement on the island that had been continuous since prehistoric times.
14 They had been traced from a photograph he had taken at Lindesfarm in Northumberland
15 From notes made by Mick Duncan, the editor of this work and Miralles closest colleague in the Scottish side of the partnership.
16 Two difficulties in transcribing Miralles’ notes, first his handwriting is small and sometimes leaves out a letter and secondly he not aim for exact English, for example in the previous quote he wrote ‘parliament sit in the land.’ For legibility where the correct form is obvious it has been used.
17 This celebration of the finished work and the quality and character of this book are due to the imagination and dedication Mick Duncan, and is tangible representation of his admiration for Enric Miralles.
18 Michael Duncan, op cit.
19 Michael Duncan op cit.
20 Historic Scotland is

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