Mystery cash donor ensures completion of architectural masterpiece


By Christine Lavelle

THE stunning vision of one of Scotland’s greatest architectural masterpieces is to be finally realised after an anonymous donor gifted £1m to the project.

Old College Quadrangle, University of Edinburgh, was originally designed by Robert Adam over 200 years ago but he died before it was completed.

And Adam’s successor William Playfair was forced to abandon the project after it ran out of money.

Now new work – pictured  – would complete the courtyard on South Bridge.

Mary Bownes, University of Edinburgh Vice-Principal said: “It is very exciting to be involved with this project to landscape the quad at Old College, one of the central landmarks of Edinburgh, in a style and to a standard that both Adam and Playfair would have approved of.

“As with many grand building projects, this one ran out of money more than once, and the quad was never completed.

“We hope it will be an inviting space on the Southside that will entice the local community to visit all year round, as well as when there are festival performances.”

David Borthwick, from project architects Simpson & Brown, said the firm hopes the finished product will fulfill the vision of the two celebrated architects.

He said: “There are no records of any vision to suggest how it should look according to Adam or Playfair.

“But what we have done is look at how other buildings were designed by Playfair, such as the paving at Heriot school.”

Mr Borthwick said they want to make the area more inviting to staff and students of the university, which is the reason they decided to put in a grass lawn.

He said: “We want to soften up the landscape to make people want to sit there and have lunch.

“It’s a bit more like an Oxford or Cambridge University courtyard in that respect because it will result in a sociable place.”

The landscaping project marks the completion of a grand design started in 1789 and overseen by Robert Adam until his death in 1792, before Playfair took over.

Work will officially begin in September and is expected to be finished by April next year.