Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

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The new Scottish Parliament is located at the foot of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. It was designed by the Catalan architect Enric Miralles and completed in 2004. Unfortunately he died in 2000 at the age of 45 before he could see the completed work.
The land around the building with its earth ramparts and water is an integral part of the design - a Parliament "sitting in the land" according to Miralles. Turf stems or branches connect the petals/leaves of the buildings to Holyrood Park and Arthur's Seat.

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The elements of the geometry and decoration of the buildings are very abstract although said to be inspired by Scottish nature and motifs such as leaves, branches and upturned boats. The most distinctive part of the decoration is the abstract hammer-like shape repeated around the windows and on the facade generally. Although difficult to see, this is said to have been inspired  by a famous Scottish painting hanging in the National Gallery of Scotland: Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch (1795) - see here.  Perhaps the reference is simply that of the serenity and balance of a horizontally gliding figure.

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Another architectural feature is the solid oak poles on various parts of the building. They are not thought to be representative or symbolic of anything specific.

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In the Canongate (the lower part of the Royal Mile) the parliament stands opposite old buildings with crow-step gables. This common Scottish architectural feature is reflected in the projecting alcoves of the Members' rooms. Each alcove has a window seat and was referred to as  'contemplation space' by the architect. As with the hammer-like cladding of the other parliament buildings (above), the shape of these windows is also said to have been inspired by the outline of the skating minister.

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In the lower part of the Canongate building are embedded a representative range of Scottish stones. There is also the representation of a sketch made by Miralles of the view of the Old Town from his hotel window.

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The 17th century Queensberry House has been incorporated into the Parliament complex.


Aerial View 1 (        Aerial View 2 (

Scottish Parliament pages about the building
(including internal views) 

Design Discussion at Galinsky

More at Arcspace

About Enric Miralles

More of Edinburgh at Astoft

Home Architecture Index Email:  Maps Link  (U.K.)

All photographic images on this website are Copyright the Website owner 2001 or later unless otherwise stated. Email contact above. Full resolution originals are available for approved purposes.