Looking At The Derridas Philosophy Cultural Studies Essay

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Reading of the material first produced by Derrida is hard, it seems that it is intended to be difficult, to make us feel inadequate and for the philosopher and his translators to seem clever than us, [1] in an attempt to make us accept but not question the theory and his genius. What is more, when asked what deconstruction is, Derrida replied "I have no simple and formalized response to this question. All my essays are attempts to have it out with this formidable question". [2] 

As I have come to understand it, based on linguistics, deconstruction is a strategy, a way of reading texts to get to the bottom of them. [3] It is said that writing corrupts first hand wisdom from speech and hence is a poor substitute, [4] that the true origin from the writer cannot be portrayed correctly when ideas can be formed out of context in reinterpretation, to take the text and deconstruct it by drawing out conflicting logics shows that text never really means what it says or says what it means. [5] 

"Deconstruction is not a dismantling of the structure of a text but a demonstration that it has already dismantled itself."J.Hillis Miller [6] 

What makes the theory become all the more confusing is it seems that philosophers enjoy using architecture as a metaphor, and that these metaphors do not often directly translate to the architectural movement.

"Something has been constructed, a philosophical system, a tradition, a culture, and along comes a de-constructor (who) destroys it stone by stone, analyses the structure and dissolves it.. One looks at a system and examines how it was built, which keystone, which angle... supports the building; one shifts them and thereby frees oneself from the authority of the system" Derrida. [7] 

So this architecture is based on the assumption that architecture is a language, (it can be read and seen to portray a culture, history, story and meaning -so why not?) and that this language is amendable to the methods of linguistic philosophy [8] , yet Derrida has insisted that despite appearances on the contrary deconstruction is not an architectural metaphor. [9] Indeed deconstruction is not any type of metaphor [10] and what is more, that deconstructive architectural thought is impossible [11] , that truly deconstructing architecture would make it uninhabitable and no longer architecture. Nevertheless he collaborated with Peter Eisenman on a competition entry for the Parc de Vilette in 1982 which is noted as a largely important event in the Deconstructivist movement [12] . It is purely irritating. In attempting to make his work untouchable, his ideas high on a pedestal, he has alienated the very people who are most influenced by his theories.

The Americans on the other hand never noted Derrida as an influence on their Deconstructivism movement, although there undeniably is some reference.

In 1988 an exhibition entitled 'Deconstructive Architecture' at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, was launched. [13] Its exhibited architects included Peter Eisenman (with whom Derrida had previously worked), Frank Ghery, Zaha Hadid, Coop Himmalblau, Rem Koolhaus, Daniel Libbeskind and Bernard Tschumi. [14] Mark Wigley wrote the accompanying essay in which he described Deconstructivism as 'disruption, dislocation, deflection, deviation and distortion.' [15] He denies connection with the French philosopher and states "As Derrida deconstructs language from within; architecture too should be deconstructed from within itself." [16] and that "attempts to relate architecture, even this architecture, with esoteric philosophies seemed not only misleading but misguided." [17] 

Undeniably the theory is similar to the linguistic philosophy as architecture is 'laid on the couch' and interrogated by alternating gentle coaxing with violent torture, to bring the impurities to the surface, [18] it's confrontational stance on the post-modernist acceptance of architectural history (the origin) and its want to disjoin and dissemble this foundation from within itself. [19] 

How else does Deconstructivism relate to the architectural movements before it?

It is said that Deconstructivism is a reaction against Post-Modernism. [20] Post-Modernism is a return to embrace, often ironically, historical references [21] . Deconstructivists believe that architecture can no longer be policed by that history, it must be housed and maintained, but it can no longer provide explanation for the architecture itself. [22] 

Wigley believes that Deconstructivism is homage to Russian Constructivism and indeed it is similar in the way they both are concerned with the simplicity of geometric forms as the important artistic content. [23] They both interrogate modern movement forms and hence 'discover' form, although the Constructivist (and Modernist) tendency towards purism is not present in Deconstructivism where form is often deformed when the structure is deconstructed. [24] 

The modernists too had rules on the 'purity of form' as well as other constricting notions like 'form follows function' and 'truth to materials' which the movement reacted against. [25] There could also be said to have a link with cubism where forms are 'chopped up' and viewed from different viewpoints simultaneously [26] , but this is seen in the final aesthetic rather than the underlying theory.

Applying these theories, whether based on the European or American schools of thought leads to an architecture characterised by fragmentation of non-rectilinear shapes distorted to produce an unpredictability and controlled chaos [27] . These distortions are performed within the forms their selves to produce forms out of the structures of which they are composed [28] . They can be said to be disturbed from within. The movement was not meant to be simply the fragmentation or taking apart of the structures but a manipulation of the very essence of what makes it what it is, although now there is a sense that the philosophical theories used to influence the movement have been lost and that we are left with the simple aesthetic [29] . Is this however a blessing in disguise? Should an architecture that rejects the past and has nothing to replace it with [30] , presented in such an obvious and aggressive way be taken so seriously? After all, an architecture that rejects meaning is just a shelter, a house not a home, and has very little human quality.

The Scottish Parliament Building

In 1707 the act of union was passed [31] , creating a political union between Scotland and England. Their individual parliaments merged to form the parliament of Great Britain, housed in the Palace of Westminster in London. As a result, Scotland was directly governed from London without legislature or a parliament building of their own.

In the 1970's the pressure grew for an independent parliament with the rise of the Scottish Nationalist party [32] . In September 1997 a referendum of the Scottish electorate approved the establishment of a directly- elected Scottish parliament to legislate on most domestic affairs [33] . Secretary of state for Scotland, Donald Dewar, decided that a new purpose built facility should be constructed to house the new Scottish parliament as the current facilities were deemed to be too small. [34] 

Three original sites were chosen, and it wasn't until later after the official closing date that Holyrood was entered into the running (as it became available from its previous owners the Scottish and Newcastle Brewery) [35] . It's competitor at the New Parliament Building or Royal High School on Carlton hill was a popular choice due to its monumental location [36] , but instead of being placed at the top of the hill, the chosen site at Holyrood was placed at the bottom of the hill. It was believed that this was to bring the parliament down to the people. Miralles later suggested a silver lining for the site location, saying that its location was where you 'left Edinburgh and entered Scotland' [37] . It also locks intimately with the surrounding old town and its citizens [38] and offers a patriotic view of the land the MSP's serve although a negative point about this site is that it puts a modern building alongside medieval ones. [39] 

After the site was chosen an international design competition was held to find an architect. Dewar promised that the building would present nothing less than "an image of Scotland's new position within the United Kingdom as we move into the 21st century" [40] . Submissions were received from architects such as Richard Meier and Michael Milford who proposed monumental symbols of national identity. [41] 

It is told that Enric Miralles thrust some twigs and leaves onto the table and proclaimed "That is the Scottish Parliament" [42] . Miralles did not provide a design proposal but a design concept, a dialogue, [43] which expressed a wish not to make the parliament a status of power, but to tie it in with the landscape, and hence with the Scottish people. Miralles was unanimously chosen [44] . Critics stated that the Scottish parliament should have been designed by a Scottish architect, and saw the appointment of Enric Miralles as a great disappointment [45] .

Monumental Neo-Classical structures were generally believed to be the best suited to a parliament, but the original Neo-Classical model, the democratic political buildings in the 19th century, were confused [46] . The new emerging democratic architecture had few precedents to draw from, in the USA they chose the Classical model to demonstrate democracy for free males (slaves and women were excluded) [47] this resulted in an architecture similar to those from Ancient Rome and Greece; these were ruled by emperors whom by today's standard are dictators with a wide rule. Why would democracy choose this type of architecture? Well firstly, there was little else to choose from, as democracy was a new concept, and secondly, they wanted to show their superiority to other states and countries and impress those citizens whose money they extracted [48] . After all, a strong, organised architecture which learns from the past presents a confidence that those people inside who are running the country will have similar qualities.

But what is democracy? Surely it is a political form that gives access to all citizens (or those represented by the citizens) equally. It is where the people rule. Therefore, is this lean towards Neo-Classicism really representative of a democratic society? It is an architecture that wishes to dwarf people who enter it, made of some of the coldest looking materials accessible to man. It is a symbol of power that is so much grander than any single citizen could wish to come anywhere close to so that the individual does not feel equal. The style is insensitive to a nation seeking a collective identity in a humane building form.

It seemed Miralles agreed. He wished to make the building return to the people of Scotland [49] . To do this he applied three main techniques. There is no monumental structure; no dome or clock tower, and the building is large but said to never dwarf the buildings surrounding it. This means that the building seems more welcoming and humane, a building for everyone. A gathering place is created, so that the public can congregate like in the European squares or piazzas [50] and the debating chamber is formed in an arc to present an image of political parties standing side by side. Unlike in Westminster where opposing political parties are sat literally opposite each other [51] , encouraging a head on confrontation, Miralles' debating chamber is a model of conciliation and consensual exchange designed to blur the boundaries between political parties. [52] 

To create a national Identity within architecture for Scotland, we must know who the nation is. Miralles' displaced this question into the landscape, from which there are many influences to draw from [53] , he believed that within every serious Scotsman was a romantic [54] and that there was a historic, almost umbilical link between the Scots and their land [55] . He therefore took influences from leaves, twigs, boats, fish, and the Salisbury crags that meet with the site.

These forms can be seen in the building, for example the leaf shape of the garden lobby skylights and the oak 'twigs' that screen the entrance and the MSPs windows.

The overall design seems fragmented, and it appears that there are five main components to the complex. These consist of an office building for MSPs, the glass-roofed garden lobby; the grade 1 listed refurbished Queensbury House, a series of towers with the plan of upturned boats and the landscaped area [56] . They are unified by Enric Miralles familiar architectural language and a common pallet of concrete, stone, stainless steel and oak applied in different registers. [57] 

The overall composition dances this way and that like a city built over time to no predetermined shape presenting a picturesque outline which must be contemplated from different angles to try to understand the fluid high density and labyrinth organisation of a metropolis. Being so low and complex Dewar thought it would never be summarised by a single iconic image [58] . But it does create a sense of ceremony and nationhood.

It presents an ideal for the parliament in that it is non-hierarchical [59] and although it is bold and loud is at a very human scale. Its plan is like a university micro-campus [60] , which encourages the idea of separate structures joined together and focused on a working environment. These metaphors are representations of how a democratic parliament should be [61] . A symbol of nationhood that is welcoming.

The building speaks of Scotland in its curvilinear organic shapes, as seen in the leaf inspired roof lights in the garden lobby and the 'upturned boat' shaped plan of the towers, the building connects with the land. It also does this by using Scottish stone in its Canongate wall [62] and in the way its landscaped 'fingers' 'reach out' into the landscape as well as the framing of the landscape through the many windows [63] . It 'grows out of the site'.

The Scottish parliament building goes against the reduction of modernism and embraces a highly ornamental style [64] , the reverse of modernist 'less is more' Miralles agrees with the post modern riposte 'more is different' [65] which helps to create a romantic vision of the Scottish nationhood. It is seen in the following decorative suggestions, as well as the exceptional workmanship [66] put into them;

There is a Saltire cross, although slightly tilted, imprinted in the concrete vaulted ceiling of the lobby just past the public entrance. [67] 

The 'Hairdryer/trigger/tilted body' black granite on the facade of the MSPs offices reminds some people of the popular Scottish 'The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch' believing that the leaning skating Reverend was stylised into this geometrical form. Some say it represents 'a statesman skating over thin ice' or a well balanced movement- a perfect metaphor for democratic debate. [68] 

There is a cut out shape on the Debating chamber window screens representing a bottle or a human silhouette this has been said to humanise the scale of the chamber and remind those inside of the people they serve, although it has also been linked to the Scottish love of Whisky. [69] 

The Hammer beam structure in the ceiling of both the Garden lobby and the debating chamber reflects the beam structure in the 1639 Scottish parliament [70] .

MSP's pass under a stone lintel- the Arniston stone- when going into the debating chamber; this was originally part of the pre-1707 parliament house. It symbolises a connection between the past and present parliament. [71] 

The Canongate wall is imbedded with rocks from around Scotland and quotes from famous Scots [72] .

The roof lights in the garden lobby are likened to Scottish leaves, upturned boats and shoal fish celebrating the processional route [73] .

Arranged in a shallow horseshoe seating plan the 131 MSP desks of the debating chamber each with a leaf and twig styled laminated finish echo Mackintosh and Gaudi [74] . The governing party sit in the middle and the opposition sit on either side, all with seats on the front row [75] , to encourage exchange rather that opposition. Above this are galleries in which the public and press sit [76] , and in turn above the whole debating chamber is the roof, supported by structure of laminated oak beams joined by 112 different stainless steel connectors which in turn are suspended on steel rods from the walls, the connectors of which were fabricated by welders for Scotland's steel industry [77] . Unlike Westminster, the Scottish debating chamber has windows to 'the outside world' [78] encouraging links to the Scottish people and geology and discouraging the idea of parliament as being in 'a world of its own'.

The tower buildings are characterised by the curvature of their roofs, like upturned boats [79] . They house the public entrance and the committee rooms as well as the press rooms and other functions [80] . The committee rooms are said to recall the religious architecture of Le Corbusier and the Baroque [81] . An interesting feature about the committee rooms is that they contain many glazed sections and so can be viewed from many angles, not to act as surveillance, but as connection with the proceedings inside and out and to aid choice, so that someone can see who is in a room before entering [82] .

The MSP office building is connected to the tower buildings by the lobby at the western end of the complex, it is between four and six storeys high and houses offices for each MSP and two staff creating 108 cave like spaces resulting in a planning that is more classical that modern [83] . Each office houses a 'Think pod' window box with a view of the Salisbury Crags and city to aid inspiration and courage in the MSP's that use them [84] . Each has external 'twigs' that screen from the sun and onlookers [85] .

The garden side facade of the MSP office building is the most complex. 'Broken up into the smallest fractural dimensions as horizontal and vertical windows set up in a staccato rhythm while giant drainpipes play the diagonal' [86] . There is a notion that in a large building the system should not dominate over the individual. The small scale is right for democratic institutes.

The surrounding landscape creates a place for people to gather as a force [87] . The Scottish people can collect on the soft turfed planes of the shallow amphitheatre which reflect the gentle curves of the debating chamber and express themselves as one voice amongst the indigenous Scottish wildflowers and plants that cover much of the area.

The garden lobby is at the centre of the complex and connects the debating chamber, committee rooms and administrative office of the tower buildings. It is described as one of the great processional routes in contemporary architecture [88] . It's most recognisable feature is the 'leaf-shaped' roof lights, each of which is similar to, but yet different from all the others and made from stainless steel with the glasswork being covered by a lattice of solid oak struts.

Queensbury house dates from 1667 and is a seventeenth century Edinburgh townhouse used for many functions before the coming of parliament to Holyrood [89] . Because of this the conservation society of Scotland fought for it to be restored rather than reused [90] as a skeleton for part of Miralles' design. This restoration has left it with a classic symmetry and layout.

When you look at the Scottish parliament building you could be forgiven for thinking that it is deconstructivist architecture, it seems broken and fragmented into around five different components rather than one entity. There is a complex layering which means viewing and understanding it could be quite a meal. The building is a dynamic and disjointed play with geometry, it appears to be complex but is in fact well thought out and relatively simple (everything has a reason).

This building is organic, Post-Gaudi if not Post-Modern. Decoration, theme and motif cover the building, in a nod towards Post-Modernism, it is all about poetry. You can read this building, therefore, based on the linguistic philosophy it is not Deconstructivist. It is however a nod towards the arts and crafts [91] , craftsmanship is high on the agenda here. The fragmentation can be seen to be slightly cubist in its form, but really it bears no resemblance to the 'manipulated or skewed grid' of cubist architecture.

Of course, I cannot write about the Scottish parliament building and not touch upon the scandal and inquiry that surrounded it. Handed over three years late and around ten times over budget, the project has been shadowed by a political dark cloud and an inquiry led by Lord Fraser over what went wrong.

The brief (white paper) stated that "The building the Scottish parliament occupies must be of such a quality, durability and civic importance as to reflect the parliament's status and operational needs; it must be secure but also accessible to all, including people with special needs and it must promote modern and efficient ways of working and good environmental practice." [92] The client brief "sent out strong messages as to the significance not only of the symbolism of the designs but also as to the high quality expected." [93] 

Miralles satisfied the brief, he gave a building that reflected the parliament's status in democracy, which encouraged good working practise [94] and had an extremely high quality. Miralles' design encouraged an informal working environment that seems to allow those working inside of it to work efficiently.

It seems it could only have been Miralles' commitment to high quality that pulled him into the argument about cost. This high quality was requested as part of the brief. Most of the other disputes about the project were fed by a lack of consistency on the client's part. Although the distance between the two firms, with EMBT in Barcelona and RMJM in Edinburgh, not only geographical but also in the way they worked caused some problems and their relationship grew strained. The final outcome however, showed the benefits of two different types of practises coming together, Miralles' design flair and RMJMs technical application has presented a parliament they, and the Scottish, can be proud of.

Unfortunately Miralles and then Dewar both passed away before the project was completed, some people used this as an excuse to call a stop to the project, but it was seen through by Miralles' Widow Bendetta Tagliabue, the Scottish firm RMJM and the builders and craftsmen working on it. They knew they were creating something special and important.

Miralles' name was cleared at the Lord Fraser enquiry saying that the 131MSP strong parliament client had continuously made changes which had escalated costs. These changes included dramatically increasing the space required and reshaping the debating chamber.

"What could go wrong- did go wrong" [95] Lord Fraser said "Tempting as it is to lay all the blame at the door of a deceased and wayward Spanish architectural genius, his stylised fashion of working, and the strained relationship between his widow and RMJM, this conclusion could be wrong. [96] EMBT and RMJM were two teams working in different ways and separated by geography [97] . Costs rose because the client (first the secretary of state and latterly the Parliament) wanted increases and changes or at least approved of them in one manifestation or another". [98] 

Tagliabue insisted that 'The budget was a political thing' [99] and that 'the building is definitely worth it [£440million]. It gives an image of Scotland to the rest of the world and also to the people of Scotland themselves. It has met its brief- to create a building that will be looked at for centuries. And people around the world are looking at it. I know there are other governments who say they want to get a parliament like the one in Edinburgh' [100] 


When starting this essay I was under the impression that the Scottish Parliament building was Deconstructivist, and indeed it does hold some of the aesthetic of a Deconstructivist building, it is fragmented, but it is not distorted or deformed like Deconstuctivist architecture is, It also shares the approach with Deconstuctivism that function follows form, which Miralles pursued, which may explain his 'chaotic' floor plan. The Deconstructivists disjoined from architectural history and rejected against it, as had Miralles but he did this simply to change the way in which the democratic building worked and improve it.

There were over 500,000 visitors to the building in its first year, making it the second most visited building in Scotland after Edinburgh Castle [101] '[the public are] voting with their feet' said George Reid [102] , but Margo MacDonald pointed out that a high number of visitors doesn't mean that all of them like the building [103] . Indeed if the interviewee's on the RIBA Stirling prize programme who were visiting the parliament are anything to go by then we know this to be true, the visited the building even though they originally didn't like it because they did not understand the architecture and too much tax-payers money had been spent on it, but after seeing the building in person and having the design thought explained to them they were rather amazed and fascinated [104] .

The response to the building has varied dramatically. It seems that architects and designers love this building as it received the Stirling prize in 2005 [105] , but the public greatly dislike it, it was voted number 8 in the UK to be demolished on the Channel 4 programme 'Demolition'. [106] One can't help but wonder if the public's dislike for this building is because of the scandal and massive overspend and delays that went with it. Every scandal was hyped up by media criticism, "It seemed like members of the local press had microscopes, to examine the tiniest flaw in the design" [107] . They reported on Miralles' unsuitability to do the job, his lack of suitable insurance, the way the competition was run, the lack of 'Scottish-ness', the changes to design, the overspend and placed it on Miralles' doorstep but when all of this is forgotten will they fall in love with it?

How do you measure value for money? There is a saying that when constructing a building there are three factors of which you can only ever have two; these are low cost, high quality, and a fast speed. The Scottish parliament fell foul on both cost and speed, but the quality is constantly mentioned of being of the highest standard. You get what you paid for with this building, a highly individual and unique democratic working parliament which connects with the land it governs.