Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Stylish Seat of Parliament

The thoroughly modern debating chamber
One year from today there could be an independent Scotland, as they vote to break away from the UK on September 18, 2014. Scottish teams could compete at the Winter Olympics in Russia, and Andy Murray could fly the blue and white flag when he steps onto center court at Wimbledon in 2015.

The Acts of Union in 1707 merged the kingdoms of Scotland (independent from the 13th century) and England to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. A historic vote in 1997 established a Scottish National Parliament in Edinburgh, and they broke ground on the new building in 1999. Doors opened for the first session of Scottish Parliament in October 2004, with Queen Elizabeth leading the procession. Whatever the SNP decides next year, they have one architecturally stunning place to rule from.

The stairs leading to the chambers
In a city where the "New Town" dates from the late 1700s, it's shocking to see the concrete, steel and glass building sitting at the base of Edinburgh's historic Royal Mile. The Scottish National Parliament building is open to the public and a definite must-see. Government buildings aren't usually on the top of our sightseeing list, but this award winning structure is jaw-dropping gorgeous. Plus it's across from the 500 year old Palace of Holyroodhouse and a great place to sit down after all that royal wandering.

The modern design isn't everyone's cup of tea, and there's been quite a bit of controversy surrounding its construction. The architect went for an interpretation of the Scottish landscape made out of concrete, stone, glass and wood. With the natural wonder of Arthur's Seat in the background it certainly stands out of the landscape. Coming in way over budget probably didn't help the public opinion of the normally staid Scots, but it works as a symbol of a government looking to move towards the future.

After passing through the required metal detectors you'll enter the soaring steel, glass, and oak lobby. There are children's guides at the information desk, but really just let them lead the way as you explore. If Parliament isn't sitting you can head up the stairs into the stunning debating chamber. You're allowed to sit in the viewing gallery and there's an amazing view out the back windows. The little C&Gs loved watching the people trek their way up Arthur's Seat, watching them get smaller as they reached the peak at 822 feet.

The grounds surrounding the building are beautiful and equally modern, and with such a vertical, ancient city it can be difficult finding some flat green spaces to let your kiddos run wild. Sit back on one of the concrete benches and let them get their inner Highlander out while you admire the thoroughly Scottish mix of ancient and avant grade. And pretend you have enough energy to summit Arthur's Seat, if only it weren't so close to cocktail time.

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