Last edited 26 Nov 2020

Scottish Parliament Building

See the rest of the Unusual building of the week series here.


Scotland’s Parliament Building is located at the foot of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, opposite Holyrood Palace and overlooked by Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat. It was designed by the Spanish architect Enric Miralles, who died shortly before its completion in 2004, having been under construction since 1999. Miralles had drawn inspiration from the surrounding landscape, saying that he wanted a building that appeared to be ‘growing out of the ground’.

Rather than being a single building, the Parliament is a campus of several, each reflecting different architectural styles, with a total floor area of 31,000 sq. m. The roof of the buildings is distinctive, reminiscent of upturned boats on the seashore.

They are constructed from a mixture of steel, oak and granite. A great deal of landscape also forms part of the architecture, with 60% of the urban site being covered in vegetation.

The Debating Chamber is a modernist space finished in oak, sycamore and glass, with a complex roof structure made from tensile steel wires and steel-reinforced oak beams.


From the outset of the project, the building proved controversial, with many detractors from politics, media and the public. It was delivered 3 years late and had an estimated final cost of £414 m, drastically higher than the initial estimates of £10-40m. The high profile Fraser Inquiry into the construction criticised the management of the whole project, from the handling of cost increases to the implementation of design variations. These changes in design often required re-work on the project and a knock-on effect onto other aspects, such as making the building bomb-proof was not a requirement from the start, as was the need for ICT, and then the clients kept changing their minds, causing delays on that aspect.

Despite controversy however, the project is generally considered to be an architectural success, praised as one of the most innovative buildings in the UK. It was awarded the 2005 Stirling Prize.

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

[edit] External resources

Designing Buildings Anywhere

Get the Firefox add-on to access 20,000 definitions direct from any website

Find out more Accept cookies and
don't show me this again