15 JAN 2018
HISTORICAL FRAME: 3
and new town: 3
square history: 5
square gardens: 9
A trumpet in
the railings: 10
THE PRESENT SITUATION OF CHARLOTTE SQUARE: 12
ISSUES OF CHARLOTTE SQUARE: 14
value of Charlotte square: 15
Charlotte Square is
the most significant set-piece urban space within Edinburgh’s wider new town and is regarded as one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the world.
It is of exacting dimensions and carefully planned proportion. It is designed
by Robert Adam in 1791, the squares distinctive neo-classical facades are
considered a major achievement in European civic architecture and, as a part of
Edinburgh’s new town, it is a focal point within the UNESCO world heritage
The square lies at the western end of the George Street in Edinburgh’s new town.
1- Location map of Charlotte square.
old and new town:
In the 1750s Scotland’s capital was in the desperate
situation, it was starting to become overpopulated due to transatlantic
commerce and the growing industries.
Medieval Edinburgh grew up in height around the defensive
lines of castle rock because it was surrounded by lochs and mushes that were
not suitable for the building.
The topography for the city is known as “crag and tail” and
was created during the ice age when receding glaciers scored across the land
pushing soft soil aside but being split by harder crags of volcanic rocks.
James Craig a young, unqualified architect came up with a plan of Edinburgh new town. The judging panel
established Craig’s to be the best of the six received.
The buildings themselves adhered to classical orders were solidly constructed and broad
rather than tall. The new town would be
defined by its generous space, open views, light and order.
2- Map of Edinburgh old town 1674.
Figure 3- Old
town Edinburgh Figure 4- drawing of old town facing new town.
The first new town was completed in 1800 with the
construction of Charlotte square. This
was built to a design by Robert Adam.
The new town became more significant and started to gain
fame, it wasn’t just populated by wealthy people. It became the symbol of the
city. It meant opportunity and civilian life.
5- James Craig’s new town proposal.
The new town was planned purely as a residential suburb for
Edinburgh’s wealthier citizens a few shops were thought advisable to cater for
local needs. The new town of the Edinburgh was not an extension of the city center but constructed apart, to an entirely
different design and layout.
Charlotte square history:
The story of Charlotte
square is the story of the rebirth of
Edinburgh. As a fundamental feature of the city’s new town, the origin of the square was studied in the wider context of
Edinburgh’s expansion in the mid-18th
James Craig a 22-year-old architect proposed the plan of
classical geometric grid reflecting the scientific and philosophical principles
of the era.
By the end of 1781,
Robert Adam Britain’s pre-eminent architect of the late eighteenth century was
commissioned to produce a grand vision
for the square. The magnificent neo-classical palace style facades are his
Charlotte square was finally completed in 1820, and with its
central circular garden further upholding the geometric principles of the wider
scheme, it was deemed the jewel in the crown of the new town.
Figure 6- South
side of the square Figure 7- North side of the square
At first, the Charlotte square was occupied by the families
from the military. By the end of the 1850s, the middle-class professionals began to favor the location. In the 1860s the square saw the arrival of college and
school girls, young ladies’ institution and hotel. By the 19th century, most of the properties are still
residential. It was only after 1900 that the financial and legal companies
began to seek the prestige of the square.
Today in the form of Charlotte
square collection, there is a positive movement to lift the square back to its
glory as the beating financial heart of the city.
Robert Adam made his design in 1791. The historical concept
and chronology of Charlotte square provide a strong reference for moving forward.
Understanding the layers of change has been an important process in
establishing a new definition of the streetscape between the architecture and
gardens. In particular, the square
character is defined by:
James Craig’s original new town plan.
Robert Adams palace facades.
The implementation and development of garden
Charlotte square is a rectangle, each side 500 feet in
length, with streets entering at each corner. The east street is divided by the
end of George Street, from which there is
a view, across the garden which occupies the whole center of the square, with tall trees.
The appearance is enriched by the use of balustrades,
circular panels, while a prominent feature consists
of arched doors and windows at street level.
Figure 8- View of the square
Figure 9- rigor, grandeur, Figure 10- South edge of the
Balance, proportion, scale,
Charlotte square north and south elevation showing the symmetry of the façade
The geometry of architectural layout has influenced various
iterations of the squares early design although alterations in the 1960s have
largely ignored the relationship between buildings, space, and garden.
A design concept looks to re-establish the cohesiveness of
charlotte square by visually reconnecting the fine surrounding architecture to
the centerpiece gardens.
Analysing and revealing the key historical elements helps to
inform how the new structure and definition of the square between the
architecture and the gardens can be created.
This public space is a new response to a modern context, but
it is inspired by the understanding of the historical
Building frontages. 2- Existing pedestrian 3- Streetscape layout.
Historic movement. 2- Regulated traffic 3-
Zone. garden space.
Robert Adams palace frontages set the primary spatial
definition for the square, establishing the clear sense of symmetry and scale.
The gardens form the center
of the square, defined by the railings. The edges of the building and the
garden became the key pedestrian area.
The square is surrounded by buildings, footpaths, railings, and carriageway.
which is located at the west end of the George Street,
is mirrored by St Andrews square at the east end of the George street. The
gardens are surrounded by the buildings of historical note including the first
minister of Scotland’s official residence and the big green domed building of
west register house. The national trust’s Georgian house at seven charlotte
square offers a window into 18th century living with its
neo-classical design and period furnishing on three floors.
The large statue in the middle of the gardens commemorates Prince Albert,
the royal consort to Queen Victoria
herself. Heavy wrought-iron fence normally closes off the gardens.
The gardens were originally called George square but were renamed after George three’s
queen and first daughter to avoid confusion with George square in the south of
Figure 12- Gardens of Charlotte square
A fanlight is a common feature of Georgian houses, allowing
light into the hallway behind. The stonework gives a clue about life inside the
house. The rough stone is a basement marks the servant’s quarters, the first
floor contained grand reception rooms and the stone has a smooth finish known
trumpet in the railings:
The trumpet shape in the railings was used to snuff out the
torches carried by ‘link boys’ who would light your way home at night.
Solid whinstone step units to match existing in color and finish. Typically, 150mm riser with
300mm tread, although riser height varies in some specific locations where step
units taper into the paved surface.
Top of the tread is
always level, with the ground plane rising or falling as per localized conditions.
The darker whinstone material for the steps provides a clear
and strong contrast with the adjacent sandstone paving, ensuring a visual
contrast which maximises safety on the public realm environment.
Steps units tapering into sloping pavements in locations
shown on general arrangement plan.
These pavements are surfaced with the same paving slabs as
the upper walkway and are laid
perpendicular to the step units.
Figure 13- Decorative
fanlight, Trumpet Railing, and Steps of
Over the years Charlotte
square has been lit in a variety of ways,
with oil, gas and electric lighting all being implemented at various points in
time. This generally reflects the lighting chronology for the rest of
Edinburgh, with approximate dates for each as follows:
late 1600s until the introduction of gas lighting from the early 1800s.
Gaslighting- the early 1800s with the last gas light decommissioned in 1965.
from the late 1800s until the present.
The street lighting within charlotte square not only
provides lumination but also introduces
one of the only significant three-dimensional elements into space between the outer and inner railings.
Given the architectural importance of Charlotte
square and its prominence within the
world heritage site, the lighting response must be appropriate to the scale and
grandeur of the space, while being sensitive to the architectural context and
providing an appropriate lighting level and quality throughout.
Picture showing electric lighting columns located in Charlotte square (1920-1950).
THE PRESENT SITUATION OF CHARLOTTE
The levels in the Charlotte
square have changed significantly over the years, with a new road profile
introduced in the 1960s. This is to be
balanced with a reduction in the level
difference between the inner walkway and new pedestrian space, removing
the significant number of existing steps leaving either two or three risers around the walkway. This creates better
visual and physical connection to the garden railing, encouraging people to
explore the new space and inner walkway.
This is further enhanced through the introduction of step-free access to the inner walkway, with gradients
shallower than 1:21 at key locations between the new pedestrian space and inner
The plan broadly represents the arrangement that will be
returned to upon completion of train work. It features a two-way carriageway
with parking on the inside of the square. There is no through road for private
vehicles at the north-east junction with north charlotte square street, except
for buses, taxis, and cycles.
It makes little contribution to the quality of the public
realm or streetscape environment, designed purely for the functionality of
traffic movement and car parking. It is, in effect, the same arrangement that
existed prior to the temporary roadworks
associated with the Edinburgh tram project.
Figure 15- The
plans above shows the tram route and pedestrian circulation.
Predominant patterns of existing pedestrian circulation in
the square are focused around the outer footways. There is only one point of
flush pedestrian access to central garden space across the carriageway, on the
east side at the end of George square.
ISSUES OF CHARLOTTE SQUARE:
In its current layout and organization,
Charlotte square is overwhelmed by
traffic regulation, furniture, and road
infrastructure. The quality of the surface in the public realm building is also
degraded and extensively damaged, most recently by the increase in daily
traffic. Lighting around charlotte square is uncoordinated, with various light
fittings used throughout, creating darkness.
The lasting value of Charlotte
Charlotte Square is a
gateway space to George street axis to the east
and for the local hub of the west end village. The square is central to a
city-scale concentration of destination spaces and corridors, and provide an important landmark in the structure of
Edinburgh city center. It is valued both
in terms of its historic setting within the new town and its more contemporary
strategic and economic role as a business destination.
Beard Geoffrey (1978) The work of Robert Adam, Edinburgh: J.
Youngson, Alexander John (1967) The Making of Classical Edinburgh, 1750-1840, Edinburgh.