Scottish Parliament Building

The first in almost 300 years of history, the home of the Scottish Parliament is the most controversial building in Scotland.

TravelCurious Tip

If you want to see parliament in session, check their website to see when it will be sitting

The Scottish Parliament Building is a new sight in an old city: construction began in 1999, and the first debate was held in 2004. Enric Miralles, the Catalan architect who designed the building, died before its completion — and before it was dubbed the most controversial building in Edinburgh.

Scheduled to open in 2001 at a cost of between £10m to £40m, the building in fact opened in 2004, having cost around £414m. Miralles wanted it to be a work of art; the result has certainly mystified and polarised the people of Edinburgh. It came fourth in a 2008 poll of which UK building people would most like to see demolished, but it has also won numerous awards and was described by the architect Charles Jencks as being “without parallel in the last 100 years of British architecture”.

It aimed for a poetic union of Scottish people, traditions and values, but is perhaps more abstract and modernist than people were expecting. It is covered in strange forms, with still stranger inspirations. The oddly shaped windows on the west wall were drawn from the silhouette of the Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch, one of Scotland’s most famous paintings, and the panels on the front representing a curtain being drawn aside — a symbol of open government.

The Main Hall has a low, polished concrete ceiling, like a glistening cave wall, whereas the Debating Chamber upstairs is brightly illuminated. The transition represents the enlightenment of democracy. From the Debating Chamber the politicians can see Calton Hill, with its monuments to Scottish history reminding them of their duties. The ground plan was designed so that it would represent a flower of democracy rooted in Scottish soil. You can see for yourself: the best view can be had looking down from Salisbury Crags.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Edinburgh
The Royal Mile
The picturesque historic thoroughfare of the Old Town of Edinburgh.
John Knox House
Rumoured to have been the home of the 16th century Protestant reformer, this historic house tells the story of the Reformation and life in Edinburgh 400 years ago.
Museum of Edinburgh
Edinburgh's treasure box - a maze of historic rooms full of objects from the capital’s past.
Calton Hill
Crammed with monuments, Calton Hill is part of Edinburgh's UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers splendid views over the city.
Holyrood Palace
Holyrood Palace is the official residence of Her Majesty The Queen in Scotland.
Royal Mile Closes
The Closes of the Royal Mile are historic narrow alleyways named after their owners.

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