IT may have been three years overdue and cost 11 times more than initially estimated but the Scottish parliament is a new modern icon, according to academic Charles Jencks.

In a book to be published later this year, Jencks will argue that the perceived failings of the building project resulted in its success as "a tour de force of arts and crafts and quality without parallel in the last 100 years of British architecture".

He believes the selection of the relatively inexperienced architect Enric Miralles and appointment of the architecture firm RMJM midway through the process broke the competition rules, but married a visionary risk-taking element with an established practice.

The designer of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art's award-winning sculpture Landform said that parliament's construction cost of pounds-431 million has bought Scotland a new breed of international icon: the "anti-icon icon", a building that is very visibly not there.

"For a national parliament of a new era of Scotland, you want precisely the symbolism and relation to the land that Miralles gave, " he said. "All of those things, you wouldn't have gotten from RMJM or any of the other designers. He was the only one on that shortlist of six who was remotely capable of thinking that way.

"If you are designing any important physical, symbolic building, you need an architect up to the job - and yet he wasn't up to the job of the detail and the structures. Because RMJM were so complementary to Miralles, they both hit above their average.

"It is an arts and crafts building, designed with high-tech flair. You really have to go back to the Houses of Parliament in London to get interior design of such a high creative level - in fact, it is more creative."

In a new book, The Iconic Building, to be published by Frances Lincoln in May, Jencks will analyse the so-called "Bilbao effect", the notion that a challenging building by a celebrity architect can regenerate a city, such as Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in the northern Spanish city.

The late First Minister, Donald Dewar, was conscious of the growing iconic tradition and talked about the Scottish parliament as an anti-icon, contending that Holyrood must not be "a single monolithic building that overemphasises the importance of the parliament, but a group of buildings that grows out of the site and complements both the city and landscape of the park".

Jencks said the controversial design actually made the building more iconic: "Donald Dewar is on record saying it is not one of your iconic, tall skyscrapers, and that is an interesting response in itself. A really good iconic building has to have more than one set of meanings.

"If it doesn't inspire loathing and dread, it won't have the charge to upset people; if you don't upset people, you won't produce a true iconic building in the sense of Gehry's buildings in Bilbao and Disney Hall [the concert hall in Los Angeles also designed by Gehry]."

Jencks will take part in a debate on iconic buildings organised by Prospect magazine on Wednesday, April 27.

Penny Lewis, editor of the Scottish architecture journal, said: "There is a greater pressure to produce iconic buildings because in lots of areas of our lives there is a search for meaning, so architects are coming under pressure to give meanings to buildings that before might have been internally generated.

"I've always felt with the Scottish parliament, that the client asked too much of the architect to come up with an all-embracing sense of what the parliament represented, which indicates a deficiency on the part of the client.

"It is not an easily recognisable symbol, a concept in a single image but it is iconic in its recognisable details, and does bring meaning and gravitas to an institution."

David Stark, managing director of Keppie Design - the successor of the company where Charles Rennie Mackintosh worked - said: "It [the Scottish parliament building] is certainly unusual.

"But lots of money has been wasted on it, and even the buildings that are there could have been done for half the price. A lot of the early talk was to compare it with the Opera House in Sydney, but Edinburgh is iconic enough and doesn't need another piece of architecture to attract people.

To me, it should have been a high-quality building that was good for MSPs to work in, and a showcase for democracy in Scotland."

senay. boztas@sundayherald. com www. prospectmagazine. com