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1 The controversy which followed the
resignation of the Prince of Wales as President of the Patrons ofthe Museum of Scotland Project has had
the unfortunate effect ofdiverting
attention away from serious consideration of the proposed design. Benson & Forsyth‘s solution to the problem ofextending Fowkes's 1860s building onto the awkward corner site opposite Greyfriars‘ Bobby is currently on show. along with the runners-up in the museum itself. If it is ever built — and. at the press launch. Lord Bute was at pains to stress that modifications to the design were highly likely — then Scotland will have missed a great opportunity and Edinburgh will be landed with yet another unsightly adjunct to a distinguished Victorian building. This plan contrives to be both bland and quirky. It neither pays sufficient respect to its monumental parent nor asserts its own personality aggressively enough to provide an interesting contemporary contrast. It is always hard to envisage interior spaces from architects‘ drawings (in virtually all the designs. however. there seems to have been
ower &. B
As debate on the winning design for an extension to the Royal Museum of Scotland continues. Andrew Gibbon Williams offers his views on the judges’ final choice. Of the other entries. over 370 in all. Gillian Wishart selects three.
an obsession with ramps and grand atriums) but the form the building’s facade will take is clear enough. Unlike some of the more ludicrous entries Benson & Forsyth's building does at least concur with the proportions of Fowkes. The tiers of arched windows. however. are totally ignored: the new museum‘s frontage will. to all intents and purposes. be a blank wall topped by that tired 60s device: the elevated terrace. The ‘problem‘ ofturning the corner is solved by a more or less
free-standing tower. which is supposed to imitate the form of the ancient ‘broch‘. notwithstanding the fact that no such edifice ever graced the Lowlands. Mr Benson thinks that it will echo the castle's half-moon battery; I do not. lfthis particular feature is included in the final plan then it will soon appear as dated and superficially historicist
as any of the myriad of tongue-in-cheek. post-modern essays being erected the length and breadth ofthe country. ;
Sir Phillip Dowson. the (‘hairman of the panel which has appointed Benson d: Forsyth. opines that their proposal ‘responds positively to the urban context‘. lndeed it does. It pokes its nasty geometric tongue out at the (iothic (‘haplaincy (‘entre and cold-shoulders the wealth of late-Victorian and Edwardian ltalianate and Frenchilicd buildings. such as the Public Library in its near vicinity. There is nothing convincingly Scottish about it. anymore than there is anything Scottish about (ilasgow's much-overrated Burrell (‘ollection building.
The immediate runner-up. L'lrike Wilke with .lames Stirling. Michael Wilford and Associates would doubtless have been a ‘monstrous carbuncle’ in the view of the retired president of the project's patrons. But. \\ ith its great sloping sweep of glass projecting from the stepped-back facade. there would at least have been the potential for ffcotland's new museum to become an interesting piece of modern architecture on its ow n teinis. \\ ith Benson tk l'iorsy tli no such possibilm L‘\l\l\.
'l‘hel.is137 September lH( )etobci I‘Nl 73