Bright idea to improve lighting of gloomy parliament building

SCOTTISH Parliament bosses are turning their back on a key part of architect Enric Miralles' vision for the Holyrood building.

They are to install stronger lighting in the entrance foyer after complaints it was too gloomy – even though Miralles intended the area to have a "subterranean" feel. The new lights will be fitted next week, during the parliament's half-term recess, as part of a 115,000 programme of repairs and refurbishments throughout the building.

There have been frequent complaints the entrance foyer is too dark – and the parliament's cross-party corporate body, which is in charge of the building, has admitted the poor lighting marred the prestigious 2006 World Press Photo exhibition staged there.

MSPs today welcomed the move to fit new lights, but admitted it went against Miralles' plans for the 414 million building.

Brian Stewart, who headed the Edinburgh side of the architectural partnership with Barcelona-based Miralles, explained the concept for the public entrance foyer in a lecture soon after the building was opened in 2004.

He said: "The idea of the public entrance was we wanted it to be a little subterranean. You enter up the public stair – the idea was it's slightly dark, then move up the stair, it gets lighter and lighter and you get to the chamber and the natural light there is significant."

He acknowledged the criticisms, but said: "I still think it's the right light for that space."

Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald was dismissive of the architects' vision.

She said: "That was part of the airy-fairy rubbish that was talked, which they thought would envelop us all and dumb our sense of reality."

And she said she had argued the foyer was too dark right from the start. "When you come into the place it's like going into an undertaker's circa 1953 – you feel as though you should have your head covered, keep your eyes down and talk in a low voice.

"But perhaps if they put better lights in, you will then seem some of the shabbiness. I wonder if they're going to put a spotlight on the reception desk that cost 80,000 and which most people mistake for something out of MFI before it went upmarket."

Lothians Green MSP Robin Harper said the new lights would be "very welcome".

He said: "It's a southern European idea that you give people's eyes a rest from the harsh sun outside – but sadly we don't have a harsh sun and the net effect has been one of exceptional gloom. You always expect to find dusty bottles and empty packing cases instead of a parliament."

A parliament spokeswoman refused to give details of the type of lights to be installed or how much they would cost.

he said: "We had feedback from people using the building that they found the lighting levels rather low and we are responding to that."