Prominently situated at the endpoint of the city’s Royal Mile, the Scottish Parliament extends Holyrood National Park and adjoins Holyrood Palace—the official Edinburgh residence of Her Majesty the Queen. A coherent lighting masterplan unifies the nighttime appearance of the Parliament’s various buildings, while customized lighting solutions blend with its lively architecture.
Lighting balances the distinct identities of the adjacent Crown properties—a situation found nowhere else in the world—by being designed with a contemporary sensibility that keeps the Parliament harmonious with, yet clearly distinct from, the stately Queen’s Palace.
Nighttime lighting reinforces the intended village-like atmosphere by accentuating the light that individual buildings emit from within. Throughout the parliamentary complex, interior lighting solutions are carefully coordinated with these exterior effects in mind.
Each building in the Scottish Parliament complex has a distinct character and unique spaces, requiring imaginative, unconventional lighting solutions. The lighting design utilizes an entwined vocabulary of minimalist pendants, luminous bands and surfaces, as well as cast-in-place luminaires. These are tailored to a multiplicity of diverse situations throughout the interiors, including the illumination of vast areas without puncturing sculpted ceilings. The lighting design balances the extremes of historic restoration and modern architecture, while meeting the stringent requirements of a government building—which includes technical criteria and light levels for television broadcasting as well as daily office tasks.
In all, a multitude of custom lighting solutions—over fifty designs—were developed for the Parliament complex, while staying within the lighting budget. These state-of-the-art luminaires visually relate to each other, are user-friendly, and have a timeless appearance.
BBC television broadcasts make Scotland’s parliamentary meetings accessible to the public. Accordingly, the Parliament’s main meeting spaces—the Debating Chamber and six committee rooms—must meet stringent broadcast lighting criteria. Lighting quality, color, direction, as well as horizontal and vertical light levels were precisely engineered to produce the desired visual effects. Instead of using technical lighting gantries that would make the spaces feel like television studios, these highly technical lighting requirements were fully integrated into the rooms’ aesthetically-advanced designs.
The Debating Chamber features large expanses of glazing for daylighting, intended to promote the well-being of parliamentary members. However, sunlight could potentially disrupt controlled broadcast conditions. A one-of-a-kind daylight strategy was devised during masterplanning—the footprint of the Debating Chamber was rotated and adjacent leaf-shaped towers repositioned to act as giant louvers. The towers’ final locations shield the Chamber from direct sun during broadcast hours throughout the year, without the need for additional shading systems.
The Chamber’s completely asymmetrical, open ceiling includes deep trusses and structural elements that could occlude light beams. To locate lighting within these parameters, advanced photometric 3D computer modeling was used, while this technology was still in its early development. Vertical and horizontal light levels were calculated as hundreds of luminaires, all with different positions in plan, aiming orientations, and heights above the floor, were individually simulated and positioned in the space.