On public buildings with amazing design

Slightly off topic, but is Nicola Sturgeon making this announcement from the set of the Starship Enterprise?

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That’s just what the chamber of the Scottish Parliament looks like.


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Glad I asked—that’s a pretty stunning design!

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If you liked that, take a look at the outside:

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Looks nice but I confess I’m not seeing the theme, more a bunch of random shapes. I am an architectural neophyte who knows nothing however, and I’m also not Scottish.

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It is rather jolting to see such a modern looking government building.

Or one that doesn’t look like a tomb - which is what modern local city buildings often look like.

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I’d say it’s pretty par for the course for European parliament buildings. Westminster and its cramped adversarial chambers are the exception in Europe, not the rule. Another reason why Scotland belongs with us.

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The Senedd is pretty amazing too

(Sometimes seen on Torchwood)

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OH yeah, that does look familiar.

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Scotland must love plywood, which of course is a wonderful material.

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Toronto city hall (1965).


Council chamber:

Sometimes seen on Star Trek TNG.

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Interesting - do you know what the medicine wheel is doing there? Is it a tribute to indigenous citizens?

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Yes. Added 2018.

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It’s known that witches cannot cross plywood.

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I live just around the corner from it. It was, at least for a while, a pretty controversial building here in the UK and particularly in Scotland, but that’s largely because the processes of its design and construction were fairly tricky, and there were associated budget problems (It’s always the budget that gets the headlines). They started out assigning a budget for ‘a parliament building’ before they had a brief, a site, or a design. ENric Miralles, the lead architect, died half way through the project. 9-11 happened and all security principles were adjusted. The number of MSPs doubled, during the design… That kind of thing. For more on ‘the cost of parliament buildings’ see the current estimates for refurbishments at Westminster.

It’s an apparently chaotic series of forms and spaces design, no denying it. But in the twenty years or so I’ve been staring at it, it’s really really grown on me. The forms are sort of random, but actually each contain different functions like debating chambers or committee meeting rooms or blocks of offices… And that apparently random assortment of forms does also have an order of progression to it for people on the outside, too, as it forms a transition from the end of the city and the beginning of the adjacent park. You can approach it from the Old Town and its massing starts as a series of dense, roughly rectangular buildings running downhill from the royal mile, much like the rest of the area. But it gradually dissipates and loosens up. Green roofs leak out into the landscape which becomes Holyrood Park. There are banks, and pools, and plazas… it feels like a very public space which, I personally think, makes the transition between old urban town and wild rocky landscape quite comfortably. And the light catches it differently, every time I pass it. I’ve been shooting buildings around this town for decades, and I still find myself wishing I had my camera on me when I pass here, more often than not. On some lucky occasions, I do remember it.

It’s not for everyone. It’s complex and willful and a bit chaotic, but I actually quite like those qualities as a metaphor for a parliament. It isn’t overloaded with tradition, but it’s full of some absolutely wonderful craftsmanship. It’s reasonably non-hierarchical, informal, playful. But it’s also very neatly built, and full of art and gorgeous materials. It is still somehow serious, but it isn’t stuffy. There are plenty of bits of it which don’t work so well, and some of the additional security measures out in the adjacent public realm are nowhere near good enough. Many still absolutely hate the design of the place, and plenty will always hate it purely because of its function.

Like I said, it took a while for it to grow on me, but I now find its disorder very comforting.

Come visit some time, though. I keep photographing it, but I don’t think I’ve managed to actually capture the place properly, yet. Definitely one to visit in meatspace.

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Could only be 60’s – wonderful.

Does the flying saucer launch?

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Architect Viljo Revell, who unfortunately died about a year before it was completed.

That’s the council chamber. If enough witches concentrate on it hard enough…

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You can see where they hung people and left them in stocks up on the Royal Mile not far from there. A part of the city which was built on the boarded up homes of black plague victims and surrounded by old churches from a time when the Church was the most powerful political entity in Europe.

The architecture of the Scottish Parliament building seems particularly designed to make a clean break from that horrible past and speaks to a much brighter future than the dreary government buildings that surround it.

I unapologetically love that building for that symbolism alone.

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Oooh, Ghost Planet! Perhaps they are visiting Space Ghost!

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Have you seen Star Trek lately?