Wife defends Holyrood architect accused of causing costly delays

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The Independent Online

The widow of the controversial architect Enric Miralles has defended her late husband's role in the Scottish Parliament building fiasco.

Benedetta Tagliabue, who was also Mr Miralles' business partner, hit out at claims made to the inquiry into the Holyrood scandal that the Catalan architect was partly responsible for delays which contributed to the original cost of the project soaring tenfold.

Bill Armstrong, the project's former manager, has told Lord Fraser's inquiry into the cost of the project that Mr Miralles had repeatedly ignored instructions. He also claims the architect failed to come up with completed plans and bypassed civil servants to go directly to the Scottish Secretary, resulting in so many delays and problems in the early months of the project that he was nearly fired.

But Ms Tagliabue, who claimed the budget for the parliament had never been her husband's concern, denied he had flouted deadlines and not been serious about his work.

"The brief was changing constantly when the project was under construction," said Ms Tagliabue, who described Mr Armstrong as a man who was "not very much involved in the process" and who was "not such an important person". She told BBC Radio Scotland: "The changes were made because of the demands of the client. I think we have been responding very quickly to very difficult requests.

"Construction is a live process so if a piece arrives and is not the right size you have to adapt as quickly as possible. This is all about adapting and it is normal in a construction."

Ms Tagliabue, who is due to give evidence to the inquiry in the new year, denied there was any friendship between her husband and the late Donald Dewar, who was Scottish Secretary at the time, and insisted that the competition to find the designer of the Scottish Parliament had been an "international one, open to the world". She said: "This was not friendship, it was admiration. He never went for dinner with Mr Dewar, he never a had a meeting with Mr Dewar on his own. There was nothing of a personal nature." She added: "My husband was a fantastic architect, independent of the Scottish Parliament project." She described him as "one of the most considered architects in the world".

Mr Armstrong claims that in the first two months of construction the building fell four weeks behind schedule due to the architect's erratic way of working. Mr Armstrong resigned after six months in charge of the project as a result, he claims, of his problems with Mr Miralles. When he was selected for the job Mr Miralles promised he would base himself in Edinburgh, but stayed in Barcelona almost all the time, according to Mr Armstrong, causing problems when he failed to provide detailed design drawings on time.

And the worries are not yet over. Building Magazine reported yesterday that in the past month there have been a further 264 design changes made to the parliament, and that the building may face further delays in completion.This means the project may not be finished until the end of August at the earliest, rather than in July as anticipated.