Benedetta lifts curtain on mystery

THE widow of Holyrood architect Enric Miralles has stepped forward to solve one of the mysteries surrounding the new parliament building.

Puzzled members of the public and commentators have spent months trying to work out the meaning of the large, oddly-shaped panels repeated on the exterior walls throughout the 431 million complex.

They are officially referred to as "trigger panels", but have been likened to pistols, hairdryers or even question marks.

There have been claims they were inspired - like the MSPs’ "think bubble" windows - by the famous painting of the Rev Walker skating on Duddingston Loch.

But now Benedetta Tagliabue has revealed the giant panels are meant to look like curtains.

Writing in the latest issue of Holyrood magazine, Ms Tagliabue says: "On the subject of those panels on the facade, I love people trying to give names to them, trying to find hidden meanings. By giving a name to something you begin to accept it and love it. Some have said they look like hairdryers or pistols or handbasins.

"But if you look carefully at them, you notice that one side mimics exactly the profile of a curtain opened next to a window."

The panels, which appear in timber and granite, are one of the most prominent features of the external design of the building.

But there are fewer than originally planned. Parliament chiefs ordered some of them should be omitted to avoid delaying the project even further.

Presiding Officer George Reid told the Fraser inquiry into the cost of the Holyrood project that it took a squad of workmen an entire week to put up each panel because the exercise involved five changes of scaffolding.

In the magazine, Ms Tagliabue also gives an intimate insight into the thinking behind the famous think bubble windows in the MSP offices.

Her husband wanted the politicians to sit and contemplate as they looked out towards Arthur’s Seat. But Ms Tagliabue says: "On one side of the window is an exact profile of a piece of Korean furniture that we still have in our bedroom: the stair used as the ‘thinking seat’.

"Those windows are autobiographical spaces for each one of the MSPs. I hope they can develop their best ideas there."

She also writes of her late husband’s hopes for the building and her own confidence that his vision has been realised.

"People will need time to get acquainted with the building, to react, love it, hate it, or say this and that about it," she says.

"But I have the impression the effort we have been putting into it and the good intention which was at its start will be finally felt by everybody. When I look at the building now I can imagine Enric’s eyes looking at it. His dedication to this project was extreme."