Scotland’s architectural landscape is perhaps best described as a historical timeline charting the country’s history through design; from medieval crofts and castles, to Victorian tenements and cutting edge, contemporary buildings and structures.
This rich legacy defines Scotland as a nation of creativity and innovation, where each city has its own landmarks, history and identity but are all underpinned by heritage, tradition, and modernism.
Noted Scottish Architects
Several key Scottish architects have engrained their style into the architectural map of the country including William Henry Playfair, who transformed the centre of Edinburgh during the 1800s. As a key player in Edinburgh’s Enlightenment, Playfair designed many of the Capitals’ most important buildings such as the national monument on Calton Hill and the National Gallery of Scotland. His Greek Revival style of classical architecture earned Edinburgh the name the ‘Athens of the North’.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s iconic designs are, to this day, admired by architects all over the world. As a leading representative of the Art Nouveau movement in the 19th century, Mackintosh’s influence can be seen throughout his home city of Glasgow, with the School of Art as an archetypal example of his work, alongside Queen’s Cross Church and the Scotland Street Museum. However it is perhaps his Glasgow Tea Rooms that are his most unique contribution to Scottish culture, in which art, architecture and design came together in a complete environment.
James Miller who was particularly noted for his railway stations, amongst which are the 20th century extensions to Glasgow Central Station and the iconic Wemyss Bay station on the Forth of Clyde, as well as the heavily American-influenced Union Bank in Glasgow city centre.
Born in Glasgow in the 1920s, Sir James Stirling is arguably the greatest British architect of the 20th century. His innovative, modernist designs - which included the Neue Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart, and the Historical Library at Cambridge University - led to his Knighthood in 1992.
Scotland’s contemporary architecture
Renovation and conservation have played an important part in Scottish architecture in recent years, including Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s The Lighthouse in Glasgow, now home to Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture, and the magnificent glass-fronted Edinburgh Festival Theatre, boasting the largest performance area in Scotland and second only to the Royal Opera House in the UK.
The banks of Glasgow’s River Clyde boast a number of striking modern architectural masterpieces. Sir Norman Foster’s Clyde Auditorium theatre, which has earned the affectionate moniker ‘Armadillo’ in recent years, stands proudly across the river from the titanium-clad Glasgow Science Centre. Further West down the river stands the iconic Glasgow Riverside Museum, designed by Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, and home the city’s transport museum. Officially unveiled in July 2011, the breath-taking structure already dominates Glasgow’s skyline with its striking wave outline and clear glass façade.
In Edinburgh, the world-renowned Scottish Parliament building is situated at the bottom of the Royal Mile. The building was designed by the late Catalan architect Enric Miralles who was said to have been inspired by the surrounding landscape. The construction is a mixture of steel, oak and granite and was officially opened in 2004.
The National Museum of Scotland underwent an extensive refurbishment which restored the original splendour of the Grade A listed Victorian building and introduced new, modern detailing such as cast-iron balconies and a soaring glass roof which, together, create a awe-inspiring ‘birdcage’ structure.
Heading north to Dundee, Dundee Contemporary Arts centre is one of the city’s most innovative modern spaces. Maggie’s Centre in Ninewells was architect Frank Gehry’s first building in the UK. The centre, which provides support and care for those affected by cancer, was named ‘Building of the Year’ by the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland, and was also nominated for the 2004 RIAS Andrew Doolan Award for Architecture.