Edinburgh’s Modern Architecture

Yesterday we blogged about Edinburgh’s historic architecture – the world-renowned architecture of its Medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town. But what of the city’s buildings and developments over the past 70 years – its so-called Post-war Architecture?

Our next Capital Collections exhibition examines Modern Architecture in Edinburgh. During the latter part of the 20th century, construction took place across Scotland on new homes, schools, tower blocks, roads, churches and in some cases, even whole new towns. There was a commitment to improve public health and tackle poor housing. After the austerity of the 1940s and 50s, new technologies and materials combined in a period of reconstruction.

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The pictures within the exhibition highlight buildings in Edinburgh constructed since 1945 that have been recognised as architecturally significant and in many instances, are statutory listed as having special architectural or historic interest. Modern architecture can be a contentious topic, loved and loathed by both critics and the public. However, the buildings here show structures representative of their time and architectural styles; buildings that perhaps haven’t been around long enough yet for their value to be appreciated by all…?

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Edinburgh’s Historic Architecture

To mark the 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, we’ve dug into the Library’s archive and pulled out some fantastic examples of Edinburgh’s historic architecture dating from the early twentieth century all the way back to the sixteenth century.

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Register House by Robert Adam

The exhibition on Capital Collections highlights many significant buildings across Edinburgh’s World Heritage site by world-renowned architects. Amongst those represented are Robert Adam and his design for Edinburgh University’s Old College and Register House, William Henry Playfair’s Greek Doric design for the Royal Scottish Academy, and Sir Robert Rowand Anderson’s McEwan Hall and Catholic Apostolic Church in Broughton Street.

catholic-apostolic-church-broughton-street

Catholic Apostolic Church by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson

Browse online and see Edinburgh anew!

Illustrating Edinburgh Exhibition

library_poster2Pop into the Central Library by the 26th November to see a fantastic exhibition by Edinburgh College of Art’s Illustration Department. Entitled Illustrating Edinburgh it uses our favourite city as inspiration for posters and sketches.

In the staircase cabinets you’ll find posters designed by illustration students. The students each chose a building located in Edinburgh and designed a poster inspired by the architecture of the venue and by the events held there. The designs were influenced by the principles of Modernist art and design movements such as Dada, futurism, Russian constructivism and Bauhaus. The posters are original collograph prints, a process which incorporates collage, drawing and use of a printing press.

Downstairs on the mezzanine level of the library we have a collection of sketchbook work by ECA Illustration students, staff and alumni inspired by the city of Edinburgh.

Scars on the City

Scars on the City: Edinburgh in World War One was an exhibition that ran from February to June 2015 at the Museum of Edinburgh. The exhibition drew on Edinburgh Museums & Galleries’ extensive wartime collections to explore the everyday lives of Edinburgh people during the War. Objects like shrapnel from a zeppelin raid, soldiers’ knitted socks and a Red Cross nurse doll were displayed to help transport visitors to a time of terror, hardship and, sometimes, adventure.

Doll: Red Cross nurse of World War 1

Doll: Red Cross nurse of World War 1

The exhibition’s curator, Vicky Garrington, says that the wartime toys and games from the Museum of Childhood were a big hit with visitors:

“People were surprised to find out how clued up young people were about the details of the War. Cigarette cards taught them about ranks, army signals and artillery, while board games challenged them to evade mines and bombs en route to Berlin!”

Board game from World War 1: To Berlin

Board game from World War 1: To Berlin

Meanwhile, shrapnel from bombs dropped by German zeppelins bring home the reality of the first war to be fought not just overseas, but on the Home Front.

The quirky and poignant objects from the exhibition are now available to view on Capital Collections, together with the stories that bring them to life.

Edinburgh and the three bears

Tomorrow is World Animal Day, a day aimed at raising the status of animals and to improve welfare standards. World Animal Day is being commemorated in Edinburgh with a special ceremony at the statue of Wojtek in West Princes Street Gardens.

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Presscuttings and books from the Edinburgh & Scottish Collection

Wojtek, World War 2 hero

Adopted by a group of Polish soldiers in 1942, this Syrian brown bear cub was fed with condensed milk, fruit, marmalade, honey, syrup and beer. As member of the the 22nd Artillery Supply Company, Wojtek became a symbol of the Polish wartime struggle and travelled to Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. During the Battle of Monte Cassino, Wojtek helped by carrying ammunition. At the end of the World War 2, the 1.8 metre tall bear was transported to Berwickshire in Scotland. Following demobilisation in 1947, Woytek was given to Edinburgh Zoo where he spent the rest of his life. Since 2015, Wojtek has his own bronze statue in Princes Street Gardens. Sculpted by Alan Beattie Herriot, the monument represents Wojtek and a Polish Army Soldier “walking in peace and unity”.

Oliwa and Ograd, the pride of Edinburgh zoo

Did you know that Edinburgh Zoo hosted two other bears from Poland? Oliwa and Ograd were given to the children of Scotland from the children of Poland in 1959. In January 1968, Oliwa gave birth to three cubs – making the pair Edinburgh’s first breeding brown bears.

Visit the Edinburgh & Scottish Collection to uncover find more hidden histories of Edinburgh.

For a bite-size history of Edinburgh Zoo explore Our Town Stories.

 

City Garden event at Central Library

New PictureThe City Garden Project is a proposed urban greenspace project to improve the quality and quantity of ‘little green spaces’ across Edinburgh. So much space in the city is under used, from grass-desert parks to concrete traffic islands, the forgotten shoreline to featureless street
corners; this project is about revealing their potential for creative and green space uses!

City GardenCome along to the Central Lending Library on 30 September any time between 12 noon and 3pm and meet the team from HERE + NOW, the landscape and design studio behind the City Garden project. You’ll be able to see examples of their previous projects and find out more about the City Garden idea. Most of all they’d love you to share your ideas for a City Garden Project and how you’d like to activate unused spaces. You will be able to mark places which could be a potential City Garden you know of on a map. This can be everything from a vacant or abandoned area to a neglected street corner.

Why not drop-in and help make Edinburgh an even greener city!

 

Going to the pictures

Nowadays, we can stream a film directly to our mobile devices or TVs to watch at our own convenience. Gone are the days when hundreds of children would spend a morning or afternoon queuing up noisily to see the latest adventures of Hopalong Cassidy, Abbot and Costello, The Lone Ranger and Laurel and Hardy, to name a few. These were times when films were shown continuously, which meant you could spend hours at the cinema, if you managed to keep out of sight of an usherette!

The first purpose built cinema to open in Edinburgh was The Haymarket Cinema opening in 1912. In 1914, The Cameo (then called The Kings Cinema) opened, and is one of the oldest cinemas still open in Scotland. It was estimated that by 1917 there were 24 cinemas in Edinburgh. When the Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre opened in 1929, it was the city’s first super cinema, able to seat up to 3000 people.

Cameo Cinema, Tollcross, Edinburgh

The Cameo Cinema, opened in 1914

Talkies arrived in the late 1920s, but before then cinema operators would enhance the viewing experience by using music and orchestras or adding their own home-made sounds for effects such as horses’ hooves, pistol shots and explosives.

Children’s Saturday film clubs with songs, quizzes and safety-first films were extremely popular, the first one started in the New Tivoli in 1934. There was even a song for the ABC Cinema club, which would be sung enthusiastically at the beginning of the proceedings.

We are the boys and girls well known as

Minors of the ABC,

And every Saturday all line up

To see the films we like and shout with glee

We like to laugh and have our sing-song

Just a happy crowd are we-e

We’re all pals together

We’re Minors of the ABC

Tivoli Cinema, Gorgie Road, Edinburgh

The Tivoli, Gorgie.

Alas, most of the cinemas built in the 20s and 30s no longer exist. These were built in the heyday of Art Deco and were magnificent to look at, both inside and out. Many were turned into Bingo Halls or demolished.

George (formerly County) Cinema, Portobello

The George (formerly County) cinema, Portobello

Edinburgh has one of Britain’s last remaining independently-run cinemas. The Dominion Cinema in Morningside opened in 1938 and is still owned and run by the Cameron family. Erected in only 3 months, The Dominion was one of the last and most characteristic Art Deco buildings in Edinburgh.

Dominion Cinema, Newbattle Terrace

The Doninion Cinema, Morningside

Edinburgh is also host to the longest continually running film festival in the world, The Edinburgh International Film Festival. Established in 1947, it originally viewed documentary films and as its reputation grew expanded to incorporate international films. EIFF’s success has continued and notable films premiered include Brave, the Hurt Locker, Billy Elliot, Little Miss Sunshine, and this year, a remake of the 1949 film Whisky Galore!

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The Filmhouse, Edinburgh, host of the EIFF

Edinburgh has also featured in many films. One of the earliest, The Body Snatcher (1945) featuring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, was based on the short story of the same name by Robert Louis Stevenson. With many references to Burke, Hare and Dr Knox, it was marketed as “The screen’s last word in shock sensation”!

Another film adaption from a book by Edinburgh author Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was released in 1969 and featured Edinburgh heavily.  Donaldson’s School (now Edinburgh Academy) on Henderson Row stood in for Marcia Blaine School for Girls, and when Jean leads her charges on a tour of the city, the Grassmarket, the Vennel, Edinburgh Castle and Greyfriars Churchyard all feature.

The Vennel

The Vennel

Probably the most well known film featuring Edinburgh is Trainspotting, and yes by yet another Edinburgh author, Irvine Welsh. Although the book is based in Edinburgh, Leith in particular, very little of it was actually filmed here. One very famous scene was though, Renton and Spud being chased by security staff along Princes Street.

Princes Street, looking west, Edinburgh

Princes Street

To see more photos of Edinburgh Cinemas, some now long gone, visit Capital Collections.