Designer Competition

A competition was launched on 26 January 1998 to find a designer for the Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood.  The competition was to select an architect to work with rather than select a finished design.  Donald Dewar, then Secretary of State for Scotland, announced "the first step has been taken towards finding the right architect and then the best design for the Parliament building".

In the same month Donald Dewar announced the membership of the Design Panel to select the Design Team for the Scottish Parliament building.  

Design Panel

Donald Dewar - Chair

Joan O’Connor - a highly regarded architect who is a member of RIBA and was President of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland between 1994 and 1996.

Andy McMillan - formerly Director of the Mackintosh School of Architecture and a former partner in the Glasgow practice of Gillespie, Kidd and Coia.

Kirsty Wark - journalist and BBC Presenter.

John Gibbons - Chief Architect and Director of the Construction and Building Control Group at The Scottish Office.

Robert Gordon - Head of Scottish Office Constitution Group, the unit set up following the election to implement the Government’s proposals for a Scottish Parliament.

March 1998 - 12 design teams shortlisted

A meeting of the Selection Panel was held on 22 March 1998 to consider the 70 expressions of interest received from architects around the world in response to the OJEC advertisement. At that meeting 12 Design Teams were shortlisted. 

  • Ahrends Burton and Koralek with Behnisch, Behnisch and Partner (London/Stuttgart)
  • Allies and Morrison (London)
  • Benson and Forsyth (Edinburgh and London)
  • Glass Murray Architects/Denton Corker Marshall International (Glasgow/Melbourne)
  • Groep Planning (Bruges)
  • Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates/Elder and Cannon (New York/London/Glasgow)
  • Peter Kulka Architect BDA/McNeish design Partnership (Cologne/Glasgow)
  • Richard Meier and Partners/Keppie Design Associated Architects (New York/Glasgow)
  • Enric Miralles Moya (Barcelona)
  • Rafael Vinoly Architects (New York)
  • Narud Stokke Wiig (Oslo)
  • Michael Wilford and Partners (London) 

May 1998 - 5 design teams shortlisted

The next stage in the process was to invite each of the twelve teams for a competitive interview in May 1998. When announcing the five shortlisted teams the Secretary of State for Scotland said:

" … All twelve of the design teams gave presentations of the highest quality and impressed the panel both with the high quality of their previous work on prestigious buildings throughout the world and with their initial ideas for the Holyrood site."

In the latter stages of the Designer Competition, the shortlisted Design Teams were issued with The Scottish Parliament Building User Brief (pdf 3017KB) to assist them in preparing conceptual ideas for a new building on the Holyrood site.

The 5 shortlisted Design Teams and their Concept Designs

June 1998 - Design ideas on public display

The final five teams were asked to produce indicative design ideas for the Parliament at Holyrood. The concept designs were put on public exhibition from 8 June to 19 June 1998. Exhibitions were held in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, Dumfries and Selkirk.

At the launch of the exhibition at the Royal Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh the Secretary of State for Scotland invited members of the public to view the material produced by each of the five teams and gave an assurance that the views expressed by those who visited the exhibition would be taken into account by the Panel in arriving at their decision on the winning design team.   The Secretary of State also confirmed that all four of the non-UK entrants had formed partnerships with Scottish architectural practices.

An estimated 35,000 people visited the exhibitions and roughly 5,000 commenting on the proposals. The most popular design approaches were those of Enric Miralles and Rafael Vinoly. 2 out of 5 people who visited the exhibition and commented were in favour of Vinoly; 1 in 4 in supported the Miralles approach.

The Selection Panel took account of public opinion. In addition, it received a presentation from and interviewed each of the five teams for a second time before arriving at their decision.

On 6 July 1998, Enric Miralles in partnership with RMJM Ltd were declared the winners of the competition.