Sarah Halford

Architecture and Ceramics

Old College

The Georgian Room – The Old College

The Old College in Edinburgh is a courtyard building housing the Law faculty of the University. As we were told on our Architectural History lectures, the columns on the South Bridge facade are the largest worked stones in Scotland. Originally designed by Robert Adam in a very austere Neoclassical style – I think this photo shows exactly how austere – at the time of building this would have been carved out of a mess of smaller buildings.

William Playfair won the completion of the College as one of his first projects, and put his more decorative slant on the interiors, especially evident the Playfair Library. The library is exactly as Playfair designed it, and when I say ‘designed’ I mean he drew every decoration of the friezes and capitals at 1:1 scale.

Playfair Library

In the urban grain of the Old Town it’s a huge square, and open to the public although I’ve seen few people using it as anything but a place to hurry through to lectures. There are plans afoot to change the courtyard from a paved area, which until recently was also used as a car park. It will have a garden area, and generally be a much nicer place to be. Edinburgh needs more spaces like these, and it’s great that the University is committed to creating more public space, such as the courtyard and surroundings of the Informatics Forum nearby.

But really, the most important thing to say is that William Henry Playfair was only 27 when he won the competition. That sort of sickens and inspires me in equal measure.


2 comments on “Old College

  1. helen
    October 1, 2010

    I believe the grassy quad was part of the original design, but that money was run out of. And now some dude has GIVEN them a million (or so) to fix the situation. I do rather like the grassy quads at Glasgow- they feel somehow academic and like out of movies.

    • sarahhalford
      October 4, 2010

      It would be good to have more public spaces as part of the Uni, it’s definitely a MUCH better place now they no longer have parking in the quad. It would probably be quite shaded, but maybe that would be good, in contrast to the strong winds down South Bridge.

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This entry was posted on October 1, 2010 by in architecture.
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