William Playfair, Edinburgh, Architect, Building, Photos, Project, Design, Info
William Playfair Edinburgh : Architecture
British Architect : Edinburgh Buildings, Scotland, UK
William Henry Playfair was born in London; died Edinburgh
William Playfair, Architect
Playfair was a leading figure in Edinburgh’s Enlightenment and designed many of the buildings that are crucial to Edinburgh’s most famous views such as across the Mound to the Castle and of Calton Hill.
The architect was born in London, but after his father’s death, he was sent to live in Edinburgh with his uncle, Professor John Playfair, mathematician, geologist and leading figure Edinburgh’s Enlightenment. William studied under William Starke of Glasgow. His first public appointment in 1815 involved the laying out of part of Edinburgh’s New Town.
William Henry Playfair was commissioned to complete the unfinished Edinburgh University buildings on South Bridge in 1817, leaving the front as designed by Robert and James Adam. He also designed Royal Terrace and Regent Terrace in the Calton Hill estate; the National Monument on Calton Hill; and, the Royal Scottish Academy and the National Gallery on the Mound.
National Monument: photo Adrian Welch
Playfair’s most important works in Edinburgh were executed in the Greek Revival form of Classical architecture popular amongst some architects in the early 19th century helping earn Edinburgh the title ‘Athens of the North’.
He was competent in other styles too such as the Gothic Style New College, housing the University’s Faculty of Divinity and the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly Hall, the latter being the temporary home of the Scottish Parliament from 1999. He also built country houses in the Tudor and Italianate styles.
William designed the Royal College of Surgeons in Nicolson Street opposite the Festival Theatre:
Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh: image © Benson + Forsyth
Playfair died in Edinburgh after a long illness in 1857. A proportion of his drawings are preserved at Edinburgh University Library. His Advocates Library is regarded as the best UK Law Library.
Playfair’s New Town house/office was at 17 Great Stuart Street.
William Henry Playfair – Edinburgh Works
Calton Hill Development (New Town extension): Royal Terrace
Donaldson’s Hospital (Donaldson’s School for the Deaf), Haymarket Terrace, West Coates, 1842-54 – link
National Monument, Calton Hill, 1824-9
New College – University Faculty of Divinity +
Church of Scotland General Assembly Hall (Free Church College), 1846-50
New Town Phase 3 Development: Blenheim Place, Brunswick Street, Brunton Place, Carlton Terrace, Elm Row, Hillside Crescent, Leopold Place, Montgomery Street, Regent Terrace, Royal Terrace, Windsor Street
Old College, Edinburgh University – Old Quad, Interior 1817-26
Royal Scottish Academy formerly The Royal Institution, 1822-26, enlarged & altered 1832-5
Scottish National Gallery (National Gallery of Scotland), 1850-7
Surgeons’ Hall, Nicolson Street, Southside, 1830-32
St Stpehens’ Church: photo © adrian welch 2005
Other William Playfair Buildings / Monuments in Edinburgh
Advocates Library, off Royal Mile, Old Town 1829-30
Belmont House, Edinburgh, 1828
City Observatory, Calton Hill, 1818
Circus Place & Circus Gardens, New Town, 1821-3
Duddingston Manse, 1823-4
Inverleith Row, No.8, 1824
Inverleith Place, No.20, 1825
Monument to James Denhom at Heriot’s Hospital, 1824
Monument to Professor John Playfair, Calton Hill, 1825-6
Monument to Dugald Stewart, Calton Hill, 1831 – link
Monument to Lord Jeffrey, Dean Cemetery, New Town, 1851
Monument to Sophia Rutherford, Dean Cemetery, New Town, 1852
Monument to William Playfair, Dean Cemetery, New Town, 1857
Royal Circus, New Town, 1820
St Stephen’s Church, New Town, 1827-28
Benson + Forsyth Architects have produced a proposal for the site adjacent to Playfair’s Surgeons’ Hall, Edinburgh.
Photos of Playfair buildings by Adrian Welch
Scottish Architecture: best Scottish Buildings of the last three decades
Scottish Architects of the past
Buildings / photos for the William Playfair Architecture page welcome
William Playfair Architect – Building : page