18th to 20th century Scottish architecture

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  • The exterior of Bute House in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh
    Bute House in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh

The 300 years between the 18th and 20th centuries saw an explosion in Scottish architectural styles with Neoclassical, Gothic, Romantic, Victorian and Art Noveau designs featuring prominently across the country.

The north tower of Hopetoun House, West LothianEdinburgh’s impressive New Town, characterised by its wide, symmetrical streets and large tree-filled squares, was designed by James Craig in 1767. Amongst this sandstone glory is Charlotte Square, the north side of which is a perfect example of the Classical style and created by Robert Adam, one of the most significant designers of the time. Look out for the integrated houses each with its own unique palace-like style. This was in clear contrast to the city’s medieval High Street and tenements of the Old Town.

For more examples of Adam’s work, visit the neo-Gothic cliff-top Culzean Castle in Ayrshire. Robert's father William was also a prolific architect, working on the extension of the beautiful Hopetoun House, overlooking the Firth of Forth, as well as Duff House and Haddo House in Aberdeenshire.

The Greek Revival style was a significant influence in the Victorian Age of architecture in Edinburgh and Glasgow. William Henry Playfair played a key role during this period. As well as the rich facade of Floors Castle near Kelso in the Scottish Borders, his unrivalled impact on Scotland’s capital can be seen with the imposing Greek designs pillars and motifs. Admire his work when you visit the Royal Scottish Academy which dates from 1836, the Scottish National Gallery of 1857 and the incomplete National Monument of Scotland on Calton Hill.

Just outside Edinburgh, the iconic Forth Rail Bridge, which links Edinburgh to Fife, officially opened in 1890 is one of the most significant constructions of its age. It was also the world’s first major steel bridge.

Looking up at St Vincent Street Free Church, GlasgowThrough in Glasgow, admire Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson’s unique interpretation of the Greek Revival style at impressive St Vincent Street Church. Glasgow’s 1870 University building, which dominates the city’s skyline, is George Gilbert Scott’s striking example of the Gothic style, with beautifully crafted turrets and pointed edges.

The 20th century heralded the age of one of Scotland’s best loved architects and designers; Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who was a member of the Art Noveau school of design. His influence can be seen throughout his home city of Glasgow, with the School of Art, an archetypal example of his work, alongside Queen’s Cross Church and the Scotland Street Museum.

Also in the city, the Baird Hall of Residence in Sauchiehall Street, which dates from 1938, is a clear illustration of the more modern, flat roofed designs, heavily influenced by the Art Deco style. Another example of this style is the Glasgow Film Theatre, designed by James McKissack which is another example of this style.

Towards the end of the 20th century, the use of glass played a prominent role in several constructions. Visit Barry Gasson’s fusion of nature and art, the Burrell Collection in Pollok Park, Glasgow, which houses the great art collection of Sir William Burrell.

Come and explore the richness of Scotland's fantastic architecture which tells a story of the country through the ages.

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