Athens of the north

“ Auld Reekie ” and “ Athens of the North ” : depict how the designers of Edinburgh from the mid 18th century to the mid 19th attempted to associate ( physically and visually ) the Old Town and the New Town.

The monikers “ Auld Reekie ” and “ Athens of the North ” are symbols of two really different times during Edinburgh ‘s Past and of two every bit contrasting countries in its cityscape. Before the eighteenth century, Edinburgh consisted of the country now known as the old town. This comprised a dumbly populated colony straddling the tail of the antediluvian volcanic stopper that is castle stone. Conditionss in this country were crowded and frequently disgusting. This was the consequence of 100s of old ages of irrational determinations and complete deficiency of town planning and sanitation. “ Auld ” translates straight as “ Old ” and “ Reekie ” refers to the smoky environment caused by the high concentration of chimneys, but besides intimations at the malodor. In this manner, I feel that the moniker “ Auld Reekie ” connotes everything that the old town represented during this clip. In the same manner I feel that “ Athens of the North ” represents the hope and aspirations of the Scots enlightenment manifested in the New Town. In my essay I shall exemplify how and why Edinburgh developed from “ Auld Reekie ” to the “ Athens of the North ” and discourse how the designers during this period attempted to link both visually and physically the Old and New Town.

The “ Scots Enlightenment ” refers to a extremely influential period of Scots History during the eighteenth century. It was a clip when Scotland excelled as a state specifically in the field of academe and scientific discipline. This included doctrine, economic sciences, technology, architecture, medical specialty, geology, archeology, jurisprudence, agribusiness, chemical science, and sociology. Possibly the greatest indicant of the enormousness of the success at the clip was the literacy degrees. By 1750, Scots were among the most literate citizens of Europe, with an estimated 75 % degree of literacy. Although the exact ground for this monolithic rational patterned advance is non wholly clear, it is really much linked with a closely knit group of Scots faculty members and union members. This included Francis Hutcheson, Alexander Campbell, David Hume, Adam Smith, Thomas Reid, Robert Burns, Adam Ferguson, Robert Adam, John Playfair, Joseph Black and James Hutton. Many of them were based in Edinburgh at the University and met and discussed their thoughts on a regular basis in a societal context. It is this coaction, unlike their European coevalss that is said to be the cardinal their success. As a symbol of this accomplishment Edinburgh was ab initio referred to as the “ Athens of the North ” in mention to the academic success instead than architectural features of Athens.

During the first half of the eighteenth century, it is clear that Edinburgh had become no lucifer to its equivalents South of the boundary line. To many of its citizens, peculiarly to its blue bloods and concern people it had become an embarrassment to Scotland, particularly in position of the enlightenment. As Robert Chambers describes it, it had become:

“ a narrow, foul, provincial town ”

or in John Taylor ‘s words

“ makes this state so much despis ‘d by the English ”

There were many jobs with the town but possibly the most urgent issue was that of sewerage disposal. Due a deficiency sanitation, the dwellers of the old town had became accustomed to the mediaeval solution of flinging there waste out of the Windowss and into the troughs and side streets. Up until this point, it had been a comparatively satisfactory solution as tenement blocks were restricted in tallness and the wet clime of Scotland merely washed away the sewerage down the steep gradients. As the edifices became higher due to a higher population denseness, the issue became apartment as waste began hitting the walls of next edifices and most infamously worse, set downing on walkers. This was non a job in illustrations of English metropoliss at the clip so it is non hard to see why some Scots would hold been ashamed of their state ‘s capital. Despite this, harmonizing to Charles McKean, it is a common misconception that the dwellers of Edinburgh during this clip were despairing for the development of a new town. In his transition Twining metropoliss: modernization versus betterment in the town of Edinburgh he argues that the determination to construct the new town came from a more complex political docket instead than a common feeling of dissatisfaction towards the old town. It seems that there were two distinguishable sentiments, one was to better the old town, and the other was to construct a new one. McKean stresses that our cognition of the status of the old town comes from text written by those who were for the building of the new town and there for could be inaccurate.

Despite this, the cardinal point is that Edinburgh was in demand for alteration.

Part of Edinburgh ‘s death can be attributed to pretermit by the authorities in England dating back to the formation of the brotherhood in 1603. It seems that as the power shifted from Edinburgh to London, so did much of the wealth and as a consequence the economic system of Edinburgh suffered greatly during this clip. By the early eighteenth century the state of affairs was so bad that the council appealed to the King George to salvage Edinburgh from its diminution. After having no response the council attempted to take action towards the dissolution of the Union, nevertheless they were unsuccessful as they lacked fiscal support. Despite this, Edinburgh finally gained from the Union. During Georgian times many programs went in front to better the old town. These included the cleaning up of the old town and the redevelopment of many of its edifices. Due to Edinburgh ‘s alone topography, development of the old town was really restricted, particularly to the North. As a consequence, new developments ab initio went in front in the countries South of the old town. This consisted chiefly of the neo-classical development of Bearfords Park consisting what is now George square and the Design of the New College by Robert Adam. The concluding motive for the development of the new town to the North came when Edinburgh was pressured into forestalling its elite from flying to London. As Charles McKean puts it

“ Since Edinburgh needed to retain ‘people of rank and of a certain luck ‘ , it required an blue suburb entirely for them ”

The First and most obvious physical nexus between the Old Town and New Town came with the building of the north span between 1769 and 1772. This was constructed after the determination had been made to construct the new town to the North. Constructing a span over the Nor Loch vale had been on the cards for over a century but it was non until the council received authorities support for the development of the new town that plans went in front. The span spanned the vale of the Nor Loch and for the first clip, allowed entree to the old town from the North. Equally good as easing the building of the new town by supplying a critical nexus, it besides created a more direct path to the port of Leith which improved trading in the old town. The original span was constructed from rock and included three primary arches. Merely after its completion the span collapsed due to structural lacks killing 5 people. The job was caused by old ages of dirt build up from old town diggings which created big hills of “ traveled Earth ” along the embankment of the old town crag. The applied scientists had underestimated the deepness of this loose dirt which finally led to the catastrophe. By 1772 it was reconstructed with more significant foundations. In alliance with the north span is the south span. This was completed subsequently in 1788 and spanned the every bit debatable depression of the Cowgate to the South. Built from rock and consisting of 22 arches, the span was constructed chiefly in order to associate the high street with the university but besides to let for entree to the spread outing developments to the South.

Coupled with the north span, this extremely undervalued viaduct linked the new town suitably to the educational bosom of the old town.

Although there were many others involved, the design for the new town is credited to the immature designer James Craig. Like many of the people involved in the construct for a new town and in true spirit of the enlightenment, Craig was a strong truster in the brotherhood. This unionist docket was reflected really literally in his initial proposal which in program formed a brotherhood doodly-squat. This vision was subsequently dropped due to a combination of it non being possible to build ( because of the angles which it created ) and a general feeling of public disfavor towards its symbolism. Subsequent alterations were made to the program and in 1767 the program that we know today was finalised. From above, Craig made assorted ocular links with the old town. The first and most noteworthy of these is the alliance of the new town. The program comprises three chief streets ; Queens St, George St and Princess St. These were aligned parallel to the royal stat mi and in making so created an obvious apposition between the old and new town. The streets are besides about a stat mi long and integrate a square at either at either terminal ( Charlotte Sq and St Andrew Sq ) . This rather literally reflects the composing of the old town where the Castle and Holyrood Palace take their topographic point at either terminal of the east-west aligned high street that is about a stat mi long. Further ocular connexions to the old town were made by Craig in the agreement of the streets which run perpendicular to these primary streets. These consist of Charlotte St, Castle St, Frederick St, Hanover St and St David ‘s St. These streets were intended to aline with the cardinal characteristics in the old town in order to do a ocular connexion. The best illustration of this is Castle st, which as its name suggests, is in line with the palace. What we now know as Princess Street was besides ab initio to be named St Giles St in mention to the cathedral in the old town.

Additional physical connexions between the towns were made in 1759 with the draining of the Nor Loch and subsequent creative activity of the hill. The completion of this draining allowed for subsequently prosaic entree between the towns over what is now the Princess St gardens ( an country that had been antecedently unaccessible ) . The hill, coupled with the north span, formed a secondary vehicular entree path to the old town. The steep embankment was formed utilizing dirt exctevated when run outing the Loch together with landfill from the old town. The individual responsible for the subsequent architectural success of the hill and besides credited as the primary designer to which Edinburgh owes its rubric ; the “ Athens of the North ” is William Henry Playfair. Playfair was a Scots designer and is considered to be one of the cardinal figures of the Grecian resurgence in Scotland. His influence on the architecture of new town was monolithic, peculiarly in illustrations of some of the more iconic edifices. A cardinal illustration of this was his engagement with the Calton hill development get downing in 1818-1820 and his committee for the Royal Institution and Observatory edifices. Subsequently, Playfair besides took over the undertaking that was to be the greatest attempted testimonial to Athens in northern Europe. This was the proposal in 1924 to construct an exact reproduction of the Parthenon. Despite the fact that the undertaking was ne’er completed as a consequence of a deficiency of finance, I feel that it creates one of the most dramatic ocular statements in Edinburgh. In my sentiment the national memorial on Calton hill reflects the Castle on Castle stone and in making creates a cardinal ocular nexus between “ Auld Reekie ” and the “ Athens of the North ” . Both are situated in an elevated place on top of volcanic stones are both symbolic of the old and new town. In 1822 Playfair received the committee to plan the Royal Institution Building on the hill. As the primary edifice site which sits straight between the old and new town the hill posed a challenge. Playfair ‘s solution to this exposed location was to plan it in the signifier of a Doric temple. On the site straight behind the establishment, Playfair was subsequently commissioned to plan the national gallery in 1853. This likewise took the signifier of a Grecian Temple merely this clip in an Ionic manner and included far more improvisation. Together, the edifices form an obvious ocular nexus to the old town.

In decision I feel that many connexions were made between the old and new town. These facilitated the integrating of the New and old town at a physical and experiential degree. However, despite these ocular and physical links, in my sentiment there is no existent connexion between the nucleus kernel of the old and new town. To me this is illustrated most clearly in position of the brotherhood. As a defensive colony built to fend off the English, the old town is symbolic of a reluctant ( still existent ) Scots mentality where alteration and development are non on the skyline. Contrastingly, the new town is a symbol of the brotherhood and of the forward thought attack which prevailed during the Scots Enlightenment.In this manner, together with its neoclassical architecture I think the New Town is meriting of its comparing to ancient Greece in its name “ Athens of the North ” . The disjuncture between the political orientations of the two towns is reflected in their architectural features where there are virtually no similarities. Although there are many illustrations of neo-classical architecture in the old town, to me these are merely portion of the new town political orientation and do n’t stand for an architectural connexion. The ground there is no architectural mention to the old town is because at the clip, the manner to show these new ideals was by utilizing the Grecian Classical linguistic communication. This is the instance in all illustrations of the Grecian resurgence in Europe, but was possibly most apparent in Edinburgh. Today, the architectural linguistic communication for optimism and alteration tends to stem from the international manner and accordingly allows for mentions to the history and civilization of its context. Some of the best illustrations of this can now be found on the royal stat mi where the mediaeval linguistic communication of the old town has been used. In a modern context, given the chance to heighten the architectural connexion between the old and new town, I would follow this attack.


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