Architect’s widow slams £6.5m revamp plan for Scottish Parliament

An artist's impression of the proposed security extension
An artist's impression of the proposed security extension
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WHATEVER your view of the Scottish Parliament building, it is certainly an iconic example of architecture.

And according to the widow of its architect Enric Miralles, it is about to be ruined forever.

Benedetta Tagliabue, who is also an architect and played a key part in the Holyrood project, voiced her fears that the controversial new £6.5 million security extension would destroy her husband’s masterpiece.

She spoke of her disappointment at not being involved in plans to alter the front of the building and argued that the planned changes came so soon after the completion of the £414m parliament that they should be seen as part of the process of construction rather than a completely new project.

The security annexe is intended to ensure visitors queuing to be screened do so outwith the main building. 
Ms Tagliabue said security measures had been a big part of the original project. She told the Evening News: “We had many security meetings, we thought we really had put in place everything needed.”

She said when she heard of the plan for a security extension, she tried to become involved.

“There was a competition, I did try to participate, then I was told the competition was cancelled, then I discovered there was another project.”

She said she could not say how she would have designed an extension but was sorry not to be involved in some way, adding: “I believe buildings are alive and when you want to make a change you have to change in the same symphony.

“The best symphony is to go on with the same type of architecture. I would like to have been asked or involved somehow. The building was finished in 2004. It’s not so long ago, you could say this is still part of the process of construction.”

And she was not impressed with what she has seen of the design, which moves the entrance from the corner of the Royal Mile and Horse Wynd to the centre of the frontage, where the public cafe is located. After being screened, visitors will walk along a corridor to the public foyer.

Ms Tagliabue said: “I’m sure it’s going to ruin the feeling you can enter the parliament easily. Instead of having a shadow and a pergola to indicate easy access at the bottom level, you will have a walk along a corridor, which is ridiculous.”

Critics have claimed the extension will turn the parliament into Fortress Holyrood. Since the building opened, hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on extra security including turnstiles, bollards, concrete benches and a “triangular roundabout” on the way into the car park.

Independent Lothian MSP Margo MacDonald said: “For starters I’ll say I don’t think we need this.

“This wasn’t people in the Scottish Parliament that came up with this, this was an MI5 guy. We’ve got a very good security service in the parliament, and the police are very switched on.” Campaigners who started a petition to halt the extension say they have more than 400 signatures after lobbying visitors at last weekend’s Doors Open Day. A spokesman for the Scottish Parliament said: “The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body is satisfied that Edinburgh-based design team Lee Boyd has produced a fixed design that is very sympathetic to the parliament’s architecture and surrounding environment.”