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 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.