Playfair and the City

11 Nov 2017 – 25 Feb 2018

Event times

Wednesday - Saturday 10am - 5pm, Sunday 12noon - 5pm

Cost of entry


City Art Centre

Scotland, United Kingdom


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Rarely seen drawings from the architect responsible for shaping Edinburgh’s celebrated cityscape will go on display in a new exhibition at the City Art Centre.


Around 50 drawings from William Henry Playfair’s practice, including plans for some of Edinburgh’s most famous landmarks complemented by images made by 19th Century painters showing some of his most well-regarded buildings have been gathered from the University of Edinburgh’s Department of Architectural History and its Centre for Research Collections, Historic Environment Scotland and the City of Edinburgh Council’s permanent collection to create this exhibition.

Playfair (1790 – 1857) is considered one of Scotland’s most prolific Georgian architects. His contribution to the architecture of early 19th century Edinburgh is found in many of the city’s most famous buildings, including Old College and New College, Donaldson’s School, George Heriots, the Scott Monument, Surgeon’s Hall, the Assembly Hall on the Mound and the City’s Observatory on Calton Hill.

Through his career Playfair addressed some of the key ideas around aesthetics, classics, society and politics, and their relationship with architecture and the urban realm.

His move from neo-Classical to neo-Gothic buildings demonstrates how Playfair and his architectural practice were engaged in shaping Edinburgh as a developing, working city as it entered the rapidly industrialised Victorian age, signifying his vision and ambition for Edinburgh as a place of significance within the British Isles.

The show is curated by Dr Kirsten Carter McKee and John Lowrey from the University of Edinburgh’s Department of Architectural History. It runs from 11 November 2017 to 25 February 2018 and entrance is free. 

What to expect? Toggle


Dr Kirsten Carter McKee


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