The Architecture of Robert Adam (1728-1792)

-------------------------------------- ------------------------------------


essay by Julian Small



Vistas were very important in eighteenth-century town planning and in contemporary appreciation of landscape.  One of the principles of eighteenth-century landscape architecture was the creation of specific views, sometimes of a natural feature such as a prominent hill, but more often centred on an "eyecatcher" or "folly," the view of which it was intended should be appreciated from certain specific points.  The landscape would be laid out so that it was best appreciated from the specific viewpoint, culminating in the main subject of the vista, which should attract the eye.  Brizlee Tower near Alnwick, by Robert Adam, is only one example of such an eyecatcher, in this case built within the park around Alnwick Castle, although in many cases the eyecatcher will lie beyond the park boundaries.  The same principles were followed in townscape, and in a prestigious development like the Edinburgh New Town the principal vistas should, if at all possible, be terminated with impressive buildings.  The view along the North Bridge, leading from the High Street to Princes’ Street, terminates in the steps leading up to Register House, centred on the bridge.  In 1785, the vista was extended by the construction of South Bridge, creating an axis over half a mile in length and stretching from the north end of Nicolson Street to Register House.  Similarly, the view west along George Street terminates in the church in Charlotte Square, the houses along either side of the street framing the church in exactly the same way that trees would be used to frame the view of a building like Brizlee Tower from its intended viewpoint. 


Published by Cadking Design Ltd, Edinburgh, Scotland - Copyright © Cadking Design 1997-2001
Last Update 14 June 2001- Optimised for IE5+ and Netscape 4.5+