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Scottish Architecture: From Scara Brae to the Present (10 credit points)

Course Times & Enrolment

(Code AA211-307) • (0 classes) Course location to be confirmed •
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Course Summary

A fully illustrated survey of Scottish architecture covering a broad spectrum of Scottish vernacular and designed historic buildings with terminology and styles explained throughout. All periods and styles from early medieval to the present day are covered and recent research in the field will be included.

Please note, this course includes a field trip (a walking tour of Edinburgh architecture).

Course Details

Content of Course

1. Scara Brae, brochs etc. to mediaeval: beginnings of architecture, early structures, early influences.

2. Vernacular: rural and burghs buildings: materials, locality, weather: geographical variations; stones, slate, harl, thatch, etc. design of croft houses; later buildings: characteristics: roof structures, dormers, skews, etc. Revival vs survival of traditional forms.

3. Churches, Palaces and tower houses: Gothic and Romanesque styles; plan and elevation of the tower house; tower and jamb forms: impact of French chateau styles on Scottish castles.

4. Scottish Classicism: Bruce, Edward and Mar: the classical house and its landscape design; formal plans; Scottish Historical Landscape and economic development: responses to proposal of Union of 1707.

5. Old Town of Edinburgh: urban density, topography and built environment; lands, closes, boundaries, Dean of Guild, nomenclature of old Scottish towns.

6. Robert Adam, the 18th century and neoclassical Edinburgh: intellectual context, Roman and Greek revival; travel and publication; Playfair, Hamilton and the Romantic Classical city.

7. Glasgow urban development and 19th century commercial buildings: industrial development – new typologies, factories, banks, offices. Distinguished architects: J.J. Burnett, Alexander ’Greek’ Thomson, Gilbert Scott, Leiper etc.

8. Baronial style, tenements, and Celtic revival: historicism and its highlights; Abbotsford, Balmoral. historicism and its problems: Highlandism, authenticity - Ruskin and Morris.

9. Charles Rennie Mackintosh to the 1930s: Mackintosh’s designing – its sources and change up to 1920s; Glasgow style innovation, its aims, art and its relationship with Europe. Scotland’s response to rise of the Modern Movement.

10. Late Modernism, Post-Modernism to the present: Welfare state housing – tower blocks; Matthew, Spence, Morris and Steadman – universities. Conservation and preservation over innovation. New imagery and a new dialogue: Museum of Scotland, Scottish Parliament, visitor centres etc., recent housing in Highlands.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Analyse the history and character of Scottish architecture.

  • Assess the processes and factors that have influenced architecture.

  • Demonstrate a critical awareness of past and present-day published sources on Scottish architecture.


Core Readings


  • Glendinning, M., MacKechnie, A., MacInnnes, R., 1996. History of Scottish Architecture from the Renaissance to the present day. Edinburgh: EUP. (Also available in a reduced version from Thames and Hudson History of Art series.)


  • Dunbar, J. G., 1978. The Architecture of Scotland. London: Harper Collins.

  • Fawcett, R., 1994. Scottish Architecture from the Accession of the Stewarts to the Reformation. Edinburgh: EUP.

  • Howard, D., 1995. Scottish Architecture: From the Reformation to the Restoration. Edinburgh: EUP.


10 credit courses have one assessment. Normally, the assessment is a 2000 word essay, worth 100% of the total mark, submitted by week 12. To pass, students must achieve a minimum of 40%. There are a small number of exceptions to this model which are identified in the Studying for Credit Guide.

Studying for Credit

If you choose to study for credit you will need to allocate significant time outwith classes for coursework and assessment preparation. Credit points gained from this course can count towards the Certificate of Higher Education.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.