Wonderful Building, Woeful Planning in Edinburgh

Wonderful Building, Woeful Planning in Edinburgh


The Scottish Parliament building in Holyrood, Edinburgh, has won nine major international architectural awards. It is considered to be a masterful piece of architecture, but also a dismal economic failure. It was expected to open in 2000, it did in 2004. Its costs increased from a budget of £40 million to a final cost of £431 million. “Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong”, Beatrice Manzoni says. Along with Leonardo Caporarello, she uses the Holyrood story both as a case study in SDA and Bocconi classes and as an online management simulation designed by the SDA Bocconi Learning Lab.
“The client started off on the wrong foot”, she says. “He asked for a sensational project that was also cheap and delivered quickly – it was an unrealistic goal. The architectural competition was held with no shared evaluation system. There was no real project execution plan and risk assessment policy. Also, the tendering and construction procedures were not compatible with a reasonable timetable”. Team dynamics caused further trouble. Four different project managers were appointed. The starchitect demanded to participate in the decision-making process, but failed to attend meetings. Cultural differences among team members, who were partly Scottish and partly Spanish, created tensions. As if that was not enough, both the architect Enric Miralles and the political project leader, Prime Minister Donald Dewar, died in the year 2000.
“This is a textbook case of bad project and team management. When managing a complex multi-actor project, it is essential to oversee both its ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ components. It is fundamental to establish a clear timetable, costs and objectives, design an effective decision-making process, plan every step and review risks. It is also important to appoint a project manager with both technical skills and relational abilities. Architects who want the spotlight should be carefully managed. When it comes to complex projects, the genius is collective”.

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