Celebrating Edinburgh’s post-war architecture

The Forth Road Bridge, the Scottish Widows Head Office Building and the Royal Botanic Gardens Greenhouse are all to be featured in a new book celebrating Edinburgh’s post-war architecture.

The publication, which is a joint partnership between Edinburgh City Council and Historic Scotland, is the first of its kind for a Scottish city and looks at Edinburgh’s rich post-war heritage.

The city is home to a quarter of the total post-war listed buildings in Scotland.

[pullquote]Post-war buildings can provoke a number of different reactions
Deborah Mays,  Historic Scotland [/pullquote]

The book covers a wide range of examples of how the city developed in the post-war period. This ranges from the Forth Road Bridge, which was the first cable spun suspension bridge to challenge the American designs of the period, through to BHS on Princes Street, which with its clean lines and rectangular floor plan marked a complete departure for shoppers in 1960’s Scotland.

The book also features all seven of Basil Spence’s listed buildings in the city. Spence, who was one of the most prolific designers of his generation, left a rich legacy which is most keenly seen in his innovative work designing Scottish Widows Head Office.

The building is best known for its cutting edge hexagonal prism roof which was designed to mirror the imposing backdrop of the Salisbury Crags.

The publication also includes some lesser known properties such as the seemingly humble Her Majesty’s Stationery Office by Stewart Sim, in Sighthill Industrial Estate.

The building is in fact the first multi-storey building in Europe to be built using pre-stressed concrete which became the prominent material for floors in high rise buildings until this day, demonstrating the continuation of Scotland’s reputation for innovation in building.

This innovation was also seen in other areas such as glasswork, with the Royal Botanic Greenhouse’s careful construction heralded at the time as the most important glasshouse construction since Kew Garden’s Palm House.

Deborah Mays, Director of Policy and Outreach for Historic Scotland said; “Post-war buildings can provoke a number of different reactions, but historic buildings need to reflect all aspects of life and these buildings are a key embodiment of our recent social and economic past.

When the Forth Road Bridge opened in 1964 it was hailed as one of the finest examples of engineering in the world – so much so that visiting dignitaries and celebrities would come to have their photo taken next to this extraordinary landmark.

The Commonwealth Pool, which is currently undergoing refurbishment, was groundbreaking in its late modernist design and won several awards.

The book is available to download from Historic Scotland’s website (www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/historicandlistedbuildingspublications) or can be requested via the agency’s Listing Team support office on 0131 668 8701/ 8705.

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