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Travelogue : Edinburgh 2/3

To many of you, the word ‘juxtaposition’ is just another word lost in the jargon that most architects use in an attempt to sound intellectual about the spaces they describe. The truth is, many of us come across juxtapositions in various ways in our lives. Some of these are willed and some, a part of the weave of time. The following observation is an extension of the article ‘Duality‘ , which speaks of an equilibrium between the antiquated and the present-day perceptions.

I came across one such example during my trip to Edinburgh and realised that it was a premeditated response to an existing context filled with Historical importance. As mentioned earlier, the Scottish Parliament building by Enric Miralles is one of the most prominent explorations in terms of design. While the building in itself can be seen as iconic, taking a step back to view it with respect to its surroundings proves how calculated the response is.

Seated on the plains at the foot of Arthur’s Seat, the Parliament building is flanked by the Palace of Holyroodhouse to one side. Right across the road, it is the official residence for the reigning Monarch of the Royal Family. A beautiful stone masonry castle, with massive walls that tower over the lush green grass lawns, it serves as a fitting paradigm of the Baroque period.

Juxtapose - Parliament_Holyroodhouse

Using the landscape to tie the building to its context. Source : Google Maps, Street View

The two buildings, while physically divided by a road, are layered with intangible differences.

The timelessness of Architecture manifests itself when the deliberate disorder and imbalance of Miralles’ building faces the symmetrical gates of the Palace.

The plaza creates a foreground in front of the Parliament, which tempers the context to accommodate this strong contrast of time, materiality, identity and design, amongst other things. This strong contraposition of the two buildings in this context, is what we call juxtaposition.

Juxtapose3 - Parliament_Holyroodhouse

Source : Google Maps, Street View

Google defines Juxtaposition as ‘an act of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.’ The palace, symbolic of Power and Hierarchy, is met with a insistent rejection of the very same. The imbalance and adventurous spirit of the Parliament is an attempt to oppose the formal organization of spaces. While this results in a definitive contrast to the landscape, the hills beyond shadow over the buildings, tying together the landscape and providing a balance to the setting.

Juxtapose2 - Parliament_Holyroodhouse

Old and the new, with no man’s land in between. Beyond, Arthur’s Seat acts as a background to the whole setting. Source : Google Maps, Street View

Once again, it brings us back to the idea of ‘Duality’ – a coexistence of spaces which are produced as a result of the time warp and ever changing ideas of Identity. If a building from 2004 can respond to the qualities imposed by one from the 16th century, we can definitively say that a healthy coexistence has been created. As for Architects, it is this sort of coexistence we must strive to create in the contexts that we are challenged with. For the laymen, it is this sort of seamless change in Identity we must project, to create a healthy perception in their minds.

Watch this space for more. Part 3 coming up soon !


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