Today, we took a tour of the Scottish Parliament. I can highly recommend this free tour as in an hour you will learn a lot about the building and how politics is conducted in Scotland. It can be booked in advance on the Scottish Parliament website but at quiet times, you can just turn up.
This relatively new building incorporates lots of Scottish symbolism in its design. The design concept by Spaniard Eric Mirales was drawn from Scotland’s land, people and seas. The land is represented by the overall shape of a tree whose trunk extends from the edge of Holyrood Park into the building itself with the individual buildings resembling leaves when viewed from above. The sea is evident in the design of the central area with a ceiling formed of shapes like the hulls of boats, people is incorporated by images within the building, on the walls of the debating chamber and in the “tenement”-like exterior of the MSPs office block.
Throughout the building there are specially commissioned pieces of art and the use of Scottish materials from Aberdonian granite to Dunbar cement and Scottish oak on the floor of the chamber. There are further nods to the Edinburgh architectural vernacular in design details and the 17th century Queensberry House building has been imaginatively and seamlessly joined to the new structure.
The debating chamber is formed in a semi-circle to encourage debate and conversations not confrontations, and there is a sense of openness and visibility to so much of the building symbolising that it is there to serve the people.
On the exterior the ironwork provides the leaf theme again and on the outside wall on the Canongate there are samples of stone from across Scotland, some inscribed with poems and words of Scottish authors or of relevance to the establishment of a parliament.
Travelling through the building, I was particularly enchanted by the ceramic sculpture called Travelling The Distance by Shauna McMullan. On 3 large panels, the words of 100 different Scottish women are shown. These 100 sentences are mainly women talking about other women. After getting the sentence, each woman was asked to suggest the next woman to be asked to contribute. The panels show the individual handwriting of each woman. The full transcript can be found via the Scottish Parliament website if you follow links to the building and its art.
The sentences are very different
“At 10, she carried coal up ladders – distance exceeded height of St Paul’s daily”
“Confronted with the dusty skirting, she retorted “My mind’s on higher things!” and it was”
“An inspirational force in Scottish public life – she stands with the great but walks with us all.”
“Her legacy, the Open University, enables so many to fulfil their potential.”
but together are eloquent, thought-provoking, and the way it is done, you can almost hear the voices speaking aloud.
This sculpture is not in the main entrance area but on the ground floor beyond the stairs up to the viewing gallery of the debating chamber. It can be visited whether you go on the tour or not as it is on the public side of the building.