The architecture of Scotland's great cities

The architecture of Scotland's great cities

If England's continuing seeming enthusiasm for Brexit has left you wondering if it wouldn't be a bad move to head north of the border...the question is to which city?

The mansions of Edinburgh New Town

Edinburgh is home to some magnificent terraces and the mansions of New Town are much sought-after. Morningside and Stockbridge are also among the city's most affluent areas, with imposing Victorian villas. Edinburgh began to grow into a big city after the 1707 Act of Union

Kitchen, bedroom and bathroom specialist DM Design, based in Cumbernauld, Lanarkshire and Aberdeen, has been looking at the very different architectural histories of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness - and at how politics and events influenced their evolution.
 
EDINBURGH
 
1700s
Edinburgh began to expand after the Act of Union in 1707. Before then the city was a single street with small lanes or ‘wynds’ running through it. Houses were mainly tenement buildings; tall, cramped, unsafe and piled high in order to cram the population into limited spac. Some mansions did exist, but they were mainly out in the surrounding countryside. The wealthy and poor lived in close proximity in the tenement buildings but on different floors  and socialised in the same inns and ale houses. 
After the Act of Union many of the political figureheads left Edinburgh for London and the influence of the poorer classes increased - and with this social change came a feeling of unrest.
 
Age of Enlightenment
The 18th century was the Age of Enlightenment, a movement that celebrated individuality and uniqueness, and its ideas had a great impact on Edinburgh’s architecture. Creatives were welcomed into the city and universities opened.
William Henry Playfair was instrumental in the Edinburgh Enlightenment which saw a wave of intellectual and scientific accomplishment across Scotland. Playfair designed some of Edinburgh’s most monumental buildings, in a classical Greek revival style, earning Edinburgh its nickname of ‘Athens of the North’. Playfair’s accomplishments included the National Gallery of Scotland and the monument on Calton Hill.
 
Introduction of the New Town
Edinburgh town council proposed a new town in 1752, intended to alter the cityscape into symmetrical streets lined with terraced houses. Streets were named to celebrate the Act of Union, including George Street after King George II. The designs also included large incorporated gardens, shopping centres and green spaces. New Town was built for the wealthier inhabitants.The New Town was built separate to the Old Town, separated by Nor Loch, now Princes Street Gardens. As the New Town flourished, the Old Town also benefited. Roadways and buildings at the Court and Exchange were also built at this time. 
 
Edinburgh today has nearly 5,000 listed buildings.
 
Edinburgh's famous skyline
Victoria Street in Edinburgh
Glasgow School of Art
the Mackintosh Building at the Glasgow School of Art
Glasgow's buildings are renowned for their relative ornateness
Glasgow's ancient cathedral
GLASGOW
 
Religious beginnings
Glasgow began as a religious settlement around a church created by St Mungo in 560AD. The religious settlement grew, with the construction of Glasgow Cathedral in 1197, which is still in use today, The university dates back to 1451 and is one of the oldest in Europe.
1700s.
 
Like Edinburgh, Glasgow was changed by the Act of Union. It generated more trade and the city had to diversify its economy, becoming more focused on ship building and heavy industry. Glasgow’s economy continued to grow until the First World War. However, the city’s economic success didn't extend to housing and thousands of residents lived in overcrowded slum areas and tenement houses. The economic boom of the Victorian age and into the early 20th century was followed by a post-war crash. Indeed, following WW1 there were, apparently, plans to destroy the city altogether.
 
The architecture of post-war Glasgow
After the wars, the city of Glasgow was a hub of regeneration. Its notorious slums and tenements were cleared and replaced by modern-era estates and high-rise housing. New towns were also created to house people.
 
The impact of Charles Rennie Mackintosh
One of Glasgow's most famous inhabitants is, of course, Victorian architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928). From the late19th century his work transformed the landscape of the city – and the practice of architecture and design worldwide.
 
Mackintosh began his career with an evening course at the Glasgow School of Art, interspersed with an apprenticeship in architecture at the Glasgow practice of Honeyman and Keppie. Glasgow School of Art was a thriving artistic hub and in the 1890s, together with  contemporaries Margaret MacDonald, Frances MacDonald and Herbert MacNair, Mackintosh became part of the Glasgow Four, a group who made the major contribution to what's known as ‘Glasgow Style’.
Mackintosh’s style was ornamental and historical, eclectic and forward-facing. Glasgow Style was similar, very Art Nouveau, with a focus on innovation and decoration. And Mackintosh's impact on was not just on architecture, but on furniture design and art. 
 
Mackintosh’s innovative work included:
Glasgow Herald Building. 
Glasgow School of Art commission. This design was a merge of ‘baronial’ castle-style design and 20th century building materials.
Walter Blackie’s ‘The Hill House’ family home. Based on a ‘House for an Art Lover’ design, this design combined simplicity with ornate details.
 
Characteristics of Mackintosh’s style include long flowing lines with plain surfaces and ornate attention to detail and he typically used muted colours. During WW1 larger-scale building work ceased and Mackintosh became involved in a number of smaller more domestic projects, including interiors for W J Bassett-Lowke. This saw Mackintosh move to bolder geometric designs and primary colours. Mackintosh designs can be seen throughout Glasgow.
 
ABERDEEN - The Granite City
 
Aberdeen is known as the Granite City (or the Silver City) due to many of the its most well-known buildings and homes being made from granite quarried in this area of north east Scotland. It sits at the mouth of two rivers, the Don and the Dee.
The grey granite city - Aberdeen
Inverness is a splendid city that straddles the banks of the River Ness
Some examples of granite-made buildings in Aberdeen are:
1545 – Provost Skene’s House
Provost Skene’s House is one of the city’s few examples of the pre-industrial use of granite. Granite is incorporated into rubble walling, and sandstone is used for more decorative features.
1820 - Aberdeen Music Hall (The Assembly Rooms).
The front of the music hall was designed by Aberdonian architects Archibald Simpson and James Matthews. By 1961, this area was targeted for demolition, but it was instead refurbished and restored by the District Council in the 1980s. 
1880s - Tenements around the Rosemount Viaduct
Like many cities in Scotland, tenement houses were built to improve the city. The tenements in Aberdeen were, of course, made of granite, and have period features typical of the time, including parapets and towers.
1886 – No 50. Queen’s Road
Commissioned by John Morgan and designed by J. B. Pirie, No. 50 Queen’s Road is an impressive example of domestic architecture.
1946 - Rosemount Square 
The much more modern Art Deco style also reached Aberdeen, with Rosemount Square’s circular housing block. It is a stunning mixture of modernity and tradition, with a sculpture of T.B. Huxley Jones being used to decorate the structure. 
Due to its costal location, granite was also exported, making Aberdeen the granite capital of the world.
 
 
 
Aberdeen at dusk
Aberdeen became a rich city thanks to the North Sea oil industry. It's a handsome city with imposing architecture
An engraving of Inverness by Thomas Pennant, 1771
Inverness is another beautiful riverside city
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INVERNESS
 
The city dates back to 585 AD and is one of Scotland’s most historic towns. It has a long mercantile history - it's where people in the Highlands met to trade. 

King David, Inverness Castle and Medieval architecture. 
King David settled in Inverness in the 12th century and built Inverness Castle – changing it from a wooden fort to stone.
During the Medieval times and Middle Ages trade flourished, with fishing, shipbuilding and exports of wool, fur and other materials.
1500-1600s
The longest-surviving house in Inverness is Abertarff House, built in 1593 as the town house for the Frasers of Lovat. It was developed with corbie steps – also known as crow-stepped gables – to stand out from other buildings on the street. Corbie steps are often associated with Danish medieval churches and a number of other Scottish structures.
1700s – Georgian features
Around 1726, the Balnain House was built, in early Georgian style characterised by strong symmetry and a powerful, imposing appearance. Fast forward and the house is the office for The National Trust for Scotland.
The old court house, jail and tollbooth steeple also reflect Georgian architecture, the steeple being 45 metres high and bold bronze bells being found in the spire. 
1800s  
The 1800s saw the emergence of new styles of architecture in Inverness. Alexander Ross (1834-1925), son of architect James Ross, designed the Inverness Cathedral in Gothic Revival style, having specialised in episcopal church buildings. Ross’s designs are still on display in Inverness Cathedral. The Victorian Gothic-style Town House was also built in 1882, with characteristics of prominent finials and gables.
 
This article was commissioned by DM Design.
 
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