Say Hello to: Roderick Binn, Co-Curator, Unbuilt Edinburgh

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The Unbuilt Edinburgh exhibition – which will run at Architecture and Design Scotland at Bakehouse Close throughout May – features drawings showing unbuilt major projects in Edinburgh from the last 250 years, with images taken mainly from the Historic Environment Scotland drawings collection.

The exhibition includes unbuilt projects from Robert Adam through to controversial post-war masterplanning projects for central Edinburgh, and up to the present day, to imagine how an alternative Edinburgh may have looked.

The exhibition – as part of the Festival of Architecture – has been curated by the Edinburgh Architectural Association and Historic Environment Scotland. Before the exhibition opening we spoke to Roderick Binns, the co-curator of the Unbuilt Edinburgh exhibition.

Where did the idea behind the exhibition come from?

Historic Environment Scotland holds a big archive of historical drawings and images that architects use for research. The archive is a valuable resource for architects as it allows you to look at the context of existing buildings from historical maps and photos, and helps you understand how a site has evolved over the years.

When you get the drawings there’s often pencil drawn notes or coffee cup marks, or a note of the cost of a slating contract from 150 years ago. It gives you a connection to your architectural forebears. The images are usually very detailed, hand drawn and hand coloured and we wanted an opportunity to show them off to the public.

The Festival of Architecture is aimed at the public and celebrating architecture and we thought that it would be engaging to the public to see these drawings of unrealised projects. We have a broad chronological range featuring Edinburgh’s influential architects – from Robert Adam’s proposal for South Bridge from the 18th Century up to Richard Murphy Architects’ proposal for the Sean Connery Film House from 2004. The exhibition also features work by David Bryce, Playfair, Basil Spence and Alan Reaich – architects who helped shape Edinburgh.

It is interesting to see sites that re-emerge – someone had a go at it in the 19th Century and someone else tried to solve the same site more recently.

What is your favourite part of the exhibition?

Some of the images I have I’ve dealt with in my own career and done the research in previously so that is interesting. A personal favourite is perhaps David Bryce’s proposal for St George’s Church in Shandwick Place – it is a beautiful, detailed drawing. I also like the Robert Adam proposal for South Bridge and Calton Viaduct as it is really interesting to consider how different Edinburgh would have looked if it had been built.

How do you think people can engage further with the places around them throughout 2016?

There so much available through the Festival of Architecture – there is a really broad programme, people should definitely look at the website (foa2016.com). There is something there for lots of generation, including hands on activities. It is part of the Edinburgh Architectural Association remit to promote architecture to the public and this exhibition lets us celebrate these buildings and the process of architecture.

Unbuilt Edinburgh runs at Architecture and Design Scotland, 9 Bakehouse Close, 146 Canongate, Edinburgh, EH8 8DD. 3-20 May, Monday – Friday 9:00-16:30, Thursdays until 18:30. 
Please note that the exhibition will be closed on Monday 9 May.

Image (detail) of proposed Scottish National Memorial as a Via Sacra leading to the castle of Edinburgh by Frank Mears, April 1919. Copyright: Courtesy of HES.  

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