Waverley Valley, Building, Architect, Project, Station, Design, Waverley Bridge
Waverley Valley Edinburgh : Architecture
Edinburgh New Town, Scotland
The Remembrance of Things Past
View from the Bridge
George Washington Wilson’s famous photograph of Calton Jail from Waverley Station from the middle of the last century captures numerous lost views:
the fantastical Governor’s House and Jail, Calton Road lined with working buildings and a roofless station teeming with trucks. But for now I wish to observe one item only.
Where the Venue now stands is a five-storey block carrying the advert ‘SCOTT’S CONFECTION & PRESERVE WORKS’. The first and last word’s letters sit between each window and are large and visually obtrusive. Do we all have the workaday past in our minds when we decry our modern abrasive times, when we complain about visual intrusion into the ‘Waning Valley’, the breathing space between Old and New Towns?
The same view now has no crass adverts but some smaller pitches. Who can ignore the Saltire on the Calton Crags, defiantly staring (if acutely sideways) down English-bound trains daubed with Freedom message (unreadable from the bridge)? Even larger is the ‘Scottish Socialist Party’ banner, flapping around for many a moon. More visual detritus comes by way of now-obligatory signboards on the GPO and its crane.
Turning to face West one is bombarded by even larger banners. On the left is the City Art Centre’s ever-changing plastic effort, currently two vertical Star Wars banners not in line with the windows and a huge landscape format one above, rudely blocking windows and preventing the façade to be read. The last event was graced with tripartite lurid banners that at least picked up on the buildings elevation, though clashing with the subtle stone colours of the Old Town ‘North Cliff.’ Poor City Art Centre, damaged by its parents, the supposed guardians of the Waning Valley.
Further along is ‘St Christophers Inn’ in white appliqué letters advertising a hostel, feeble compared to the dizzying splashes of colour just mentioned. A recent spat where the owner was warned to remove signage led to claims that the Council was being a tad unfair with its billowing banners clearly outshining anything the hostel could muster. Swinging further round I spy the flutter of numerous flags, the highest being the Union Flag atopEdinburgh Castle. It’s a constant source of amazement to me that some trickster has not swapped it for a Saltire: for some it represents unity for others it casts an authoritarian shadow over Edinburgh that Glasgow has escaped.
Rotating to the North and beyond the ugly plastic grey wall of the Waverley StationApproach one sees the jarring protective plastic grey wrapping cloaking
the Royal Scottish Academy. At least the Project Manager’s flag has been refurled – a seriously cheeky attempt and removed just as I was about to object.
Fortunately we can’t see the huge banners on the National Gallery facing South: it’s odd why owners so desperate for trade have to destroy their
building’s facades in doing so.
Finally my eye takes in Princes Street: more flags and thankfully the Princes Mall advert for a certain ‘Junk Food’ company is obscured. But, great swathes of red and blue scaffold protection – matching the scaffolders’ logo – are visible. How can this happen in a World Heritage Site?
© Adrian Welch
Now, let’s take a step sideways. All these little things….after my calls for sheared slices of Hadid and slabs of pink-and-orange Legoretta why am I so concerned with the minutiae that normally form the concerns of Outraged of Morningside? My father used to take me to see brochs and cathedrals, castles and galleries from Orkney to Orford Ness, armed with the relevant guidebook; my father-in-law maintains that ‘history is too neglected these days’. My art teacher used to say that you should only break the rules once you’ve fully learnt them. The reasons why our city is the way it is must inform any innovative architecture.
Like inhabitants of other cities my affection for mine does not negate radical vision: quite the opposite. To love this city is to let it live. If we stuck our heads in the sand and prevented every little mews house we would look very silly indeed. More than that, the city would wither and increasingly become a necropolis as opposed to a metropolis. Stagnation and preciousness chill my heart. Give me workaday anytime rather than pompous ‘fitting in’. Give me the ‘rude’ Scott’s Confection & Preserve Works but please don’t serve up anymore po-faced contextualism, we’re drowning under it!
Waverley Bridge, off Princes St / Market St, central Edinburgh
Waverley Bridge: photos by Adrian Welch
Scottish Architects of the past
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