Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Edinburgh's West End

I wont go on about the trams as there really is little left to be said about the farce. What is interesting is the associated works that are starting to be completed. One such place is the west end where a fairly large pedestrian island was recently opened to the public. It is an extremely prominent city centre area with stunning views of the castle, St. John's, St Cuthbert's, Princes Street and Princes Street Gardens. You could argue it is in fact, the centre of the city.

Such an ideally situated site offers up a dream opportunity for public interaction and recreation. It was one of the few sites in a UNESCO world heritage city where something bold and new could take place. Edinburgh is crying out for a sprinkling of contemporary architecture amongst its historical prowess. Or how about a small Oasis in the middle of a bustling part of town? A public space for pop-up events. Instead, what we get is another festival square. Hardscaped to the point of hurting you, the best the council could muster was a couple of large plant boxes. Its depressing and boring and a missed opportunity for something exciting. I really do hope the tram is worth it!

Doors Open Day Edinburgh

Had a nice stroll around the city on Sunday for Doors Open Day. Unfortunately most of the contemporary stuff was only open on Saturday but I managed to see a few interesting buildings.

St Bernard's Mineral Well
St Bernard's Mineral Well, Statue of Hygieia
St Bernard's Mineral Well, Hand Pump
St Bernard's Mineral Well Ceiling
Temple of Vesta, Tivoli source

St. Bernard's Mineral Well is situated along the water of Leith and is a Roman temple built around 1789. Interestingly, it was designed by Alexander Naysmith, the famous scottish landscape painter, who was good mates with Robbie Burns. A lot of Naysmith's later work featured architecture and was often a comment on how architecture effected a landscape. He also designed a couple of bridges and was a huge influence on the urban planning of the Edinburgh New Town. The temple itself is a copy of the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli. Naysmith studied painting in Italy for a couple of years in his early career so he might have seen it on his travels. The temple at Tivoli is based on the original Temple of Vesta at the Roman Forum. Vesta was the goddess of 'home', 'hearth' and 'family'. This is not, however, the goddess that overlooks the water of Leith. Naysmith chose the goddess Hygieia. She was the daughter of Esclipius and Epione (the gods of medicine), personification of health, cleanliness and sanitation. I suppose this hints at the esteem the water of Leith was held in in the late 18th century. The Temple of Vesta, Tivoli was also copied and replicated on the cliffs of Castlerock in Derry. I'm not sure where i am going with this but it is cool to imagine, Naysmith and Burns, pumping water through the ornate handle, staring up at the pagan ceiling decoration while discussing the enlightenment, the french revolution and architecture. Wow.

The Allotment Hut, further along the water of Leith in Stockbridge was designed by Sutherland Hussey at the request of Edinburgh Council to provide a meeting place for the new allotments. I overheard the Open Doors host saying it was underused so far. Given its stark modern interior I would imagine the type of people that use allotments will take a while to warm to it but it really is a fantastic little building. With some TLC the interior will eventually catch up with its sleek design. I was particularly impressed with the neatness of detailing and of course the overhand and corner folding doors. The allotments are pretty cute too. Edinburgh really could do with a lot more of them. Considering the city is overrun with private gardens its a shame, given the social aspect of allotments, that somewhere like the Queen Street gardens are not more widely used. I was reminded of the story of the Prince's Street gardens while attempting and failing to enter Queen Street for the umpteenth time. The story goes that when the gardens were originally opened, it was, like many of Edinburgh's current gardens, private access only. The elite/ rich of Edinburgh were given a key. Not, alas, the common man. Eventually, some enterprising soul, managed to get his/ her hands on a key and like a georgian Robin Hood, made hundreds of copies and distributed them amongst the people, thus rendering the privatisation of the garden null and void. It is of course, today, one of Europe's finest public gardens. Maybe this is what the council were getting at?