Behind the Image

The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

Imogen Blaikie, Lionel Eid, George Garofalakis, Elizabeth Lancaster and Laura Dodds-Hebron

Tranquillity: the site of the Parliament complex, with its walkways and cycle routes, offers an expansive and tranquil public space between city and nature with dramatic views of the Salisbury Crags beyond.

Stepped landscape: a series of radial walkways, interspersed by tiered mounds of grass emanate from the site, connecting the leaf-shaped buildings with the adjacent Holyrood parkland via a stepped landscape.

Welcoming: the entrance to the Parliament is modest in scale. It provides shelter to Horse Wynd, the nearby street, and opens itself up to Palace of Holyroodhouse with informal street furniture scattered along a pleasantly curved pond.

Sculptural forms: the design of the building and landscape draws inspiration from the Scottish landscape, using motifs from the flower paintings of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and of upturned boats from a nearby shoreline. This is expressed in a number of ways through the form of functional features (such as the bike racks) as well as aesthetic ones such as outdoor sculptures and concrete plinths that are softened with the introduction of lawns, wild flower meadows, ponds and trees.

Almost hidden: the new Scottish Parliament is modestly nestled into the hillside terrain, the lowest part of Arthur’s Seat, providing a subtle, unobtrusive addition to the skyline.

Brutal: the concrete, pebble dash walkways and gabion walls (constructed using stones from some of the distillery buildings previously on the site) contrast with the soft landscaping from the building using a coarser palette of materials.

URBAN DESIGN 162 Spring 2022 Publication Urban Design Group

As featured in URBAN DESIGN 162 Spring 2022

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Location plan

In 2004, the site of an old distillery in Holyrood became the new seat for Scottish government with a Parliamentary building complex and publicly accessible grounds designed by Miralles Tagliabue EMBT.

In each issue of Behind the Image, one of our contributors visits a contemporary public space from around the world. The photography tries to reveal an alternative perspective on a familiar precedent, famous space or place. These images illustrate how the public space works in practice: exploring its features (designed and unintended), and the way it relates to the surrounding context.