Edinburgh Research Archive >
Edinburgh College of Art >
Edinburgh College of Art thesis and dissertation collection >
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
|Title: ||Appleton’s Architects: Building the University of Edinburgh (1949-65)|
|Authors: ||Fenton, Clive B|
|Supervisor(s): ||Whyte, Iain Boyd|
|Issue Date: ||Jun-2002|
|Publisher: ||The University of Edinburgh. College of Humanities and Social Sciences|
|Abstract: ||The thesis examines and explains the background events to the architecture of the
University of Edinburgh during the years 1949-65, when Sir Edward Appleton was
the Principal. The four books that constitute the thesis each take different
perspectives on the progress of the post-war expansion project.
Appleton had to reconcile Edinburgh's policy to reintegrate dispersed University
departments within the city-centre with a rapid and unprecedented and expansion in
higher education. Selection of sites was the subject of a prolonged and heated debate,
which is related in Book One. Aided by a formidable array of architectural talent,
Appleton persuaded the local and national authorities that the controversial George
Square development, in tandem with a separate suburban site for science expansion,
would produce the most desirable outcome.
The second book discusses the style of architecture that was produced, looking at the
pre-war background of the Edinburgh School architects: William Kininmonth, Basil
Spence, Robert Matthew and Alan Reiach. The influences are traced to Scandinavia
and the architects' preoccupation with cultural nationalism. These factors combined
with the ethos of reconstruction and the City's ambitions for cultural regeneration to
create architecture with a resonance particular to its time and place. How, and why,
this is regarded as Festival Style is explained.
The academic and social objectives of the Universities, as directed by Humanists and
Christians in influential positions, were crucial to the architectural outcome, and
these are investigated in Book Three. A large amenity centre was planned for the
University area and an important purpose-built halls-of-residence development
achieved at a site near the city-centre in consequence of this. Edinburgh's own
tradition, emanating from Patrick Geddes, played a significant part in the
development of residences and student amenities, particularly the rehabilitation of a
large 17th century building in the heart of the Old Town.
Finally, in Book Four, the relationships between the architects and the theoretical
antipathies they encountered are considered. The University provided a forum for
interaction between the architects, with Matthew emerging as the dominant figure,
advising Appleton on architecture and planning, and ultimately setting up a
University Department of Architecture. For him, the University project was part of a
social mission and architecture its tool. Kininmonth, the first post-war architect to the
University, was displaced by Matthew's arrival. Spence's approach to urban design
was crucial in the realisation of the George Square project, and yet he too was
replaced when that was achieved.
All of these architects encountered the dichotomies of Modernity and Tradition, and
Science vs. Art, though with differing responses. Architects and University
ultimately experienced the conflict between pragmatism and idealism.
Viewed in its context. the achievement of Appleton was remarkable and, as a result,
the University of Edinburgh must be considered the most extraordinary patron of
architecture of the period.|
|Appears in Collections:||Edinburgh College of Art thesis and dissertation collection|
Items in ERA are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.