It's unsafe but parliament still has architecture fans beaming

THE Scottish Parliament building has won an award for its complex design "executed with skill" - just four weeks after a beam collapsed because of a missing bolt.

Embarrassed Holyrood bosses have been keeping quiet about the latest accolade from the UK Civic Trust as they work with structural engineers to get the roof fixed and the showpiece debating chamber back into use.

But today Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said the string of awards won by the parliament devalued the prizes for future winners.

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She said: "Whoever wins the awards next year will have won a rather tarnished trophy. A building must be more than quite nice looking, it must be fit for purpose and functional."

The 431 million building was opened in October 2004, three years late and ten times the original quoted price.

The 12ft oak beam swung free from its moorings in the middle of a debate on March 2.

Investigations by structural engineers Arup found one bolt was missing, another had been twisted so far the wrong way that the head almost came off and one of the bolts at the other end of the beam was the wrong size.

However, the verdict from the judges of the Civic Trust award said: "The Scottish Parliament building is an astounding building of overwhelming complexity, designed with ingenuity and executed with skill.

"The extensive use of concrete gives both durability and a sleek external elegance; internal details using, for example, sustainable timber and Caithness slate, are cleverly executed and reflect the Scottish land that the building represents.

"The Scottish Parliament is truly iconic architecture, and it has put Scotland on the contemporary architectural map."

The parliament was one of 29 Civic Trust award-winners selected for their outstanding contribution in terms of design quality and appearance in the environment. Judging took place last autumn.

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The award was presented at a gala ceremony at Lord's cricket ground in London earlier last week.

And a spokeswoman for the Civic Trust admitted that there had been some boos as well as cheers when the Holyrood award was announced.

"There was a mixed reaction on quite a few of the awards," she said. "They are controversial buildings. It was discussed backwards and forwards where we stood on the Scottish Parliament, but it met our criteria as an outstanding building of striking design which had a real impact on its environment."

A total of 316 entries from across the UK were submitted. The buildings were assessed by local teams led by an architect but also including lay people. Organisers of the award said users of the building and passers-by in Edinburgh were also asked their views.

Engineers Arup have revealed that they will put temporary strapping around the roof beams to make sure they are safe for workmen to carry out checks on the bolts in all 64 beams, possibly using X-ray equipment.

But Phillip Dilley, head of Arup Europe, said no final decision had yet been taken on what form the final repairs would take.

Other awards won by the Holyrood building

• Edinburgh Architectural Association "Centenary Medal" for outstanding architectural merit - only awarded seven times since 1957.

• Manuel de la Dehesa Prize - "Premio De Arquitectura" - awarded by the VIII Biennial of Spanish Architecture for Enric Miralles' design.

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• The Architecture Grand Prix and Best Publicly Funded Building - two major prizes in one night at the Scottish Design Awards.

• A specialist prize for High Quality Urban Design and Landscape Architecture - part of the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust's Building of the Year Award 2005.

• Royal Institute of British Architects Award - picked from over 500 entrants to be one of 71 buildings honoured for design quality and contribution to the environment.

• Andrew Doolan Award for Architecture - awarded by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland for the best building in Scotland in 2005.

• Stirling Prize - Britain's top architecture prize and the first time in its ten-year history it came to Scotland.