A NEW book exploring whether there is any inherent characteristic that makes Scottish architecture Scottish has been released.

The new work from Frank Walker, an emeritus professor at the University of Strathclyde, takes a chronological view of Scottish architecture, tracing its history from classical country houses to the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

“The book looks at, regardless of period or prevalent style, if there are characteristics inherent in Scottish architecture which recur every now and then and which can be said to characterise Scottish architecture”, Walker told The National.

The historian says he always wanted to be an architect and studied at the Glasgow School of Architecture before going into practice for around 10 years.

The National: Craigievar Castle is an iconic piece of Scottish architectureCraigievar Castle is an iconic piece of Scottish architecture (Image: HES)

“My partner and I were teaching part-time in order to get some money to come into the practice”, he explains.

“I grew to quite like the academic life and decided to change tack and apply for a lectureship job.

“I continued thereafter and I suppose you could say I worked my way up. I realised I needed a doctorate to advance which I got and so began to write a bit.

“I was involved in the teaching of design but also architectural history which became an increasing interest of mine.”

Walker has also taught abroad with exchange opportunities allowing him to teach in Turkey as well as Poland.

He says that the subject of his latest book – Mousa to Mackintosh: The Scottishness of Scottish Architecture – is one he has always been interested in and so is glad he’s now had the opportunity to dedicate a full piece of work to it.

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Explaining what the book is about in more detail, Walker said: “There are certain qualities in Scottish architecture which keep coming up. Part of the thesis of the book is that at any particular time, architecture or indeed any of the arts is subject to international ideas but also to national tradition.

“It’s the interaction of these two things which I find interesting.”

So, was he able to find a something which unites all Scottish architecture, something which gives any building a unique sense of Scottish-ness?

“Scottish architecture tends to be a matter of stone and in some respects it favours a certain verticality, a certain asymmetry and so on.”

The below image for example shows clear similarities between the Mousa Broch – an Iron Age round tower – with the National Museum of Scotland. 

The National:

The book is filled with information on a wide variety of renowned architects including interior designer Robert Adam, who made a number of contributions to Edinburgh’s townscape.

Others discussed include Edinburgh's Robert Lorimer, who was noted for his restorations of historic houses and castles and the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle. 

Given the book’s scope, it’s as much one for those with an interest in history as it is for those keen on their architecture.

It’s understandably difficult for Walker to answer when asked if there is one particular period or person who stuck out as interesting – given the diversity of materials he came across.

But one name in particular does spring to mind – and it’s one most Scots, regardless of any knowledge of architecture, will be familiar with.

“I’ve always liked Charles Rennie Mackintosh," Walker said. "And not just his approach to architecture but his writing about it has always interested me.

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“He quite explicitly acknowledges the idea of a Scottish tradition and I would say his aim was to take that, to some extent the forms and character of it, and transform them in response to modern needs.

“He acknowledges the past, doesn’t repeat the past, but uses the forms and relationships of the past to transform into something new.”

Mousa to Mackintosh: The Scottishness of Scottish Architecture is out now and more information on the book can be found HERE.