Simpson & Brown was commissioned by the Scottish Office in July 1998 to convert the Church of Scotland Assembly Hall on The Mound, together with a further seven ancillary buildings on The Royal Mile, to provide interim accommodation for the new Scottish Parliament. Building work on this prestigious, fast-track project began in December 1998 and was completed just in time for the state opening of Parliament by the Queen in July 1999.
The Assembly Hall itself was chosen as the centrepiece of the nascent Parliament and had to be extensively remodelled in order to create the new Debating Chamber. The original Hall was designed by David Bryce for the Free Church in 1858 and has been the venue of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland since 1929. The building is immensely complex, spread over numerous inter-linking half-levels on steeply sloping ground. The main entrance is from the north of The Mound and through Playfair's New College, although there are subsidiary entrances off The Lawnmarket and through the College itself. The main entrance opens on the Black and White Corridor - so named after its chequer-board patterned tiled floor - from which rising flanking corridors lead to the main hall. In its traditional arrangement the hall was a square-tiered space, furnished with austere benches for the Church Commissioners.
The conversion work called for major alterations to the building fabric in order to satisfy the stringent functional, technological and security demands of a modern Parliament. The main hall was radically altered to accommodate the new Debating Chamber and was provided with sophisticated new service installations, communication links, electronic voting and IT systems, and broadcasting facilities. The existing rectilinear tiering was rebuilt to a more politically-correct and non-confrontational horseshoe pattern, on to which were set the demountable purpose-made desks for the 129 MSPs. The area at the rear of the Chamber, beneath the south gallery, was isolated by a new screen wall to create a small library and coffee room. New cantilevered steel link bridges were constructed between the perimeter galleries to give access to the public for whom a new entrance pavilion was also built within the confines of Mylnes Court. Substantial work was also undertaken throughout the rest of the Assembly Hall, as well as the seven ancillary buildings, to provide offices and support accommodation.
While many of the alterations to the Assembly Hall were permanent, others were reversible, enabling the hall to revert to its earlier use for the annual gathering of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
|Project name:||The Interim Scottish Parliament|
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