Museum plan is changed after Prince's criticism

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The Independent Online
THE ARCHITECTS of Scotland's biggest building project since the war have altered their blueprints in an apparent attempt to appease the Prince of Wales's traditionalist sensitivities.

The London modernists Gordon Benson and Alan Forsyth have opted for a sandstone exterior to the pounds 33m Museum of Scotland, in keeping with Edinburgh's other famous buildings.

The new five-storey building is to be sited next to the spectacular 19th-century Royal Museum in Chambers Street.

It will be unique among British museums with the interior shape of the building reflecting the exhibits.

The project had a controversial start last year when Prince Charles resigned as patron of the National Museums of Scotland because neither he nor the public were involved in the choice of architects and design. He wanted the architectural competition to be a public one, and not left to 'so-called experts'.

It was after this that the changes were incorporated.

The new building will have a collection showing Scottish industrial, archaeological and social history. There will be a restaurant with views across the city to Edinburgh Castle and sculptures in the street outside, where new restrictions on parking will be imposed.

The most dramatic decision, revealed by the architects yesterday is that every floor of the helix- shaped interior will be a different shape and design, to echo the collections within.

The basement featuring pre- history will be crypt-like, carved out of the rock. The next floor focusing on death, belief and ritual, will be church-like; the floor with exhibits from medieval Scotland will be, Mr Benson says, 'like a baronial hall or a Durham cathedral'. The space on the 19th century and industrial Scotland 'will be seen as a machine hall rising up through three floors of space'.

And the floor for the 20th and 21st centuries will be 'a black box to signify the unknown'.

Mark Jones, director of the National Museums of Scotland, said: 'I believe this revolutionary design will be unique among museums in Britain.'

Mr Benson said that the Prince of Wales had not seen the model of the new building. Work on the museum will start next year.