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Nominated Dissertation

Part 1 Dissertation 2000
Elizabeth King
University of Cambridge | UK

Elizabeth King

This dissertation by Elizabeth King is a subtle and wide-ranging examination of the ways in which national identity can be expressed in architecture. It looks critically at the role of nationalism in Scottish culture, as manifested in both intellectual and material terms. It sees national identity not as a parochial or isolating concept, but rather as a symbolic definition of Scotland's place in the cosmopolitan setting of Europe and the global universe.

The author focuses on the ways in which buildings define the collective identity of the city, the nation and the age. As a background to a discussion of the symbolic importance of Enric Miralles's Scottish Parliament building, the dissertation is divided into three main sections: Educating the Nation, Displaying the Nation and Representing the Nation.

Dealing with schools and universities, museums, and parliamentary buildings respectively, these sections trace the expression of Scottish identity in Edinburgh since the Union of the Crowns in 1707. The dissertation considers the ways in which the relationship between the capital city and the nation is traced in Edinburgh's townscape. The author's research has been wide-ranging and scholarly, but the writing is never bogged down in its learning which is carried with a light and confident touch.

The dissertation is skilfully structured, beautifully written and sensitively observed. The critical writing about design issues is particularly impressive, always tightly controlled and precise without loss of spontaneity. The Department considers that this is an exceptional piece of architectural writing, particularly in a third-year student.

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