Scottish Parliament Building Competition, Picture, Architects, Miralles, Images

Scottish Parliament Building : Architecture Contest

Selection Process for Holyrood Development, Scotland

New Scottish Parliament Building

New Scottish Parliament – Devolution
The Assembly Building was on site in Holyrood since 1999

Architecture Competition announced by Scottish Office in 1998: 12 teams shortlisted, then narrowed down to 5 groups of Scottish + foreign architect teams.

Scottish Parliament Building
Debating Chamber with MSP Desks, Well looking south

“In launching the competition on 26 January 1998 to find a designer for the Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood Donald Dewar, then Secretary of State for Scotland announced “the first step has been taken towards finding the right architect and then the best design for the Parliament building“. An advertisement placed in the Official Journal of the European Communities (OJEC) invited expressions of interest from architect-led design teams. In the same month Mr Dewar announced the membership of the Panel to select the Design Team for the Scottish Parliament building. The Panel was chaired by Mr Dewar himself and members were:-

Joan O’Connor: architect, member of RIBA, President of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland between 1994 and 1996.
Professor Andy McMillan: Formerly Director of the Mackintosh School of Architecture.
Kirsty Wark: Journalist, BBC Presenter, hon. fellow of the RIAS.
John Gibbons: Chief Architect at The Scottish Office since 1984, currently Director of the Construction and Building Control Group. Robert Gordon: Head of Scottish Office Constitution Group – the unit set up following the election to implement the Government’s proposals for a Scottish Parliament.

In response to the OJEC advertisement a meeting of the Selection Panel was held on 22 March 1998 to consider the 70 expressions of interest received from architects around the world. From that meeting 12 Design Teams were shortlisted:-

Ahrends Burton & Koralek with Behnisch, Behnisch & Partner (London/Stuttgart)
Allies and Morrison (London)
Benson & Forsyth (Edinburgh and London)
Glass Murray Architects/Denton Corker Marshall International (Glasgow/Melbourne)
Groep Planning (Bruges)
Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates/Elder & Cannon (New York/London/Glasgow)
Peter Kulka Architect BDA/McNeish Design Partnership (Cologne/Glasgow)
Richard Meier & Partners/Keppie Design Associated Architects (New York/Glasgow)
Enric Miralles Moya (Barcelona)
Rafael Vinoly Architects (New York)
Narud Stokke Wiig (Oslo)
Michael Wilford and Partners (London).

Links to these architects at World Architects

The next stage in the process was to invite each of the twelve teams for a competitive interview In May 1998. In announcing the five shortlisted teams for the Scottish Parliament Building the Secretary of State said that “…All twelve of the design teams gave presentations of the highest quality and impressed the panel both with the high quality of their previous work on prestigious buildings throughout the world and with their initial ideas for the Holyrood site.”
The five teams who made the next stage:-

Rafael Vinoly
Michael Wilford
Richard Meier & Keppie Design
Glass Murray & Denton Corker Marshall International.

The final five teams were asked to produce indicative design ideas for the Parliament at Holyrood.The Secretary of State confirmed that all four of the non-UK entrants had formed alliances with Scottish architectural practices. In July 1998 a Spanish architectural practice led by Enric Miralles, wife Benedetta Tagliabue, in partnership with Edinburgh based RMJM, was chosen to design the new Scottish Parliament Building.

Controversial Issues such as choice of site, timing, architect
(non-scottish), followed by escalating costs (from an unrealistic benchmark), have left the design of the Scottish Parliament Building often neglected in the Press. Sir David Steel, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament claimed “This building is the most important to be built in Scotland for 300 years“: although this no doubt refers back to the Act of Union in 1707, the point has architectural validity too.

Scottish Parliament Building
MSP Foyer from above, looking east, QBH on left

The Scottish Parliament MSP building was topped out in March 2001. This huge concrete structure is best viewed from Holyrood Road where the unusual repeated apertures – like squared-off outlines of Australia (based on ‘the skater’ outline: see Murray Grigor’s film, or visit the National Gallery) – make a strong impression. The Assembly towers and Canongate buildings are almost complete with the Debating Chamber rapidly taking shape. The Scottish Parliament Building started phased occupation in Summer 2004.

The New Scottish Parliament building is divided as follows:-

site plan

MSP Building – East of site
Queensberry House – North of site, refurbishment
Assembly Buildings – East of site

The Scottish Parliament Assembly Buildings:-

Canongate – the cantilevered building onto the Royal Mile
MSP Foyer (Garden Lobby) – between the latter, the Towers & Queensberry House
Towers – four buildings, contain Committee rooms, offices, etc.
Debating Chamber – incl. exhibition spaces, cafeteria, etc.
Press Tower – just north of latter, housing studios

Enric Miralles died in 2000 (aged 45) a few months after construction on the Scottish Parliament Building commenced

Donald Dewar also died in 2000: he was Secretary of State for Scotland, and then First Minister in the Scottish Parliament, selected the Holyrood site and also Enric Miralles for the project

Scottish Parliament – Photos

Scottish Parliament Building – Tours + Background on dates / opening times

Edinburgh Walking Tours – these can include a visit to the building & description of the exterior: Contact Isabelle Lomholt on 01620 825722 / 07952 149814

Scottish Parliament Architecture – Tours:
Visit and try to understand the Enric Miralles legacy – check with the Scottish Parliament:
Contact on 0131 348 5200 or 0800 092 7600
Debating Chamber access depends on parliamentary business

Scottish Parliament, Holyrood
interior image by Keith Hunter Aug 2004 from EMBT/RMJM

Scottish Parliament Architect – Enric Miralles

New Scottish Parliament
photograph © Jason Baxter
Scottish Parliament Architecture

Scottish Parliament Building – Book: Enric Miralles Architecture

Scottish Parliament Context – Edinburgh Old Town

Former Scottish Parliament – New College
The home up to mid-2004 of the Scottish Parliament was New College, Old Town, Edinburgh:

Scottish Parliament Building
Scottish Parliament Building: Temporary Home at the Mound, image © Adrian Welch

The Scottish Parliament Building can be viewed from the Canongate (Royal Mile), Horse Guards and Holyrood Road.

Edinburgh Architecture Tours can include a visit around the building’s exterior / 01620 825722 for details

Scottish Parliament Architecture: Tour Enquiries 0131 348 5200

Scottish Architecture: best Scottish Buildings of the last three decades

Scottish Parliament Building – Migration:
The first wave of staff moved into the Scottish Parliament Building at the start of August 2004 in accordance with the overall plan for the phased roll-out of the migration into the new building.

Scottish Parliament Building
photograph from the east © Adrian Welch

News Excerpts re the new Scottish Parliament Building, Edinburgh:

New Scottish Parliament
The most significant public building in Scotland’s recent history is taking shape at Holyrood. The new Scottish Parliament building will be as important for Scotland as the Sydney Opera House is for Australia, and Enric Miralles’ exciting design is going to be a tremendous asset for Edinburgh.

Scottish Attraction
“The new Scottish Parliament building is set to become Edinburgh’s second most popular tourist attraction after the Castle, it was claimed today”

Modern Parliament
“It is a great modern building. Should we really have settled for anything less?”

Prospect: Scottish Parliament Building
A special edition on the Scottish Parliament Building came out as the building was reaching completion in August 2004. Key members of the groups involved in creating the Parliament were interviewed, such as Brian Stewart, Alan Mack, etc. and also key architecture critics such as Isi Metzstein and Sir Charles Jencks. The issue stated that it was intended to draw together various strands to understand the architecture of this building.

The new Scottish Parliament Building was officially opened by HM The Queen on 9 Oct 2004

Influences for the Scottish Parliament building reported include upturned boats at Holy Island, flower paintings & Glasgow School of Art by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Architect influences are noted by Gillespie as Aalto, Kahn, Pietila, Coderch, Lapena & Torres, Viaplana & Pinon.

New Scottish Parliament, Holyrood
MSP Foyer: image by Keith Hunter Aug 2004 from EMBT/RMJM

Louis Kahn was a strong influence on architect Enric Miralles, the Kimbell Museum’s vaults specifically for the three tapering vaults of the Debating Chamber ground floor.

Scottish Parliament influence – Lindisfarne boat…just over the border into England
Holy Island Boat
Holy Island Boat – influence: photo © Adrian Welch 2006

Scottish Parliament : Best Building in Scotland winner in 2005

Scottish Parliament Building : Reviews

New Scottish Parliament Building – Book: Enric Miralles Architect

Scottish Parliament : Edinburgh Architectural Association Centenary Medal

Other Buildings designed by RMJM Architects in Edinburgh:
Scottish Executive Building, Leith
Scottish Parliament – Competition: Leith Proposal

Archived images of the Scottish Parliament available upon request to

Scottish Parliament : Scottish Design Awards 2005 – Best Publicly Funded
Building + Architecture Grand Prix

Scottish Parliament Architects – RMJM Scotland

Scottish Parliament
Site View, picture © Adrian Welch

Scottish Parliament photos without direct credits were all approved by RMJM/Scottish Parliament in 2004 for use on the website. Scottish Parliament images are frequently requested – please right click on the images you desire and mail us with the titles. We will try and contact the relevant people / photographer

Old Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh Old Town

Scottish Parliament : Civic Trust Awards 2006 Scotland winner

Scottish Housing

Hotel Missoni

Royal Commonwealth Pool

Forth Bridge : design team

National Portrait Gallery

Quartermile Edinburgh

Modern Houses

Comments / photos for the Scottish Parliament Architecture page welcome

Scottish Parliament Building : page

Scottish Parliament: Website –