RUDI and SCRAN: Urban Design in Scottish Towns and Cities

5 May 2001 | blog, cities, research, small towns

Ayr Town Centre from the River Ayr
A study for RUDI and SCRAN, with Drew Mackie Associates as lead consultant, which examines some of the important characteristics of Urban Design in Scottish Towns including resumes of major projects in Leith, Edinburgh, the Merchant City and Crown Street in Glasgow. The completed study has been published on the internet. (only available in part now – for example)


Corner buildings are significant elements of the picture we have of urban areas. They define key places, unify scales in the streets they connect and give unique character to the junction they define. It is no coincidence that banks and other prestigious Victorian organisations strove to locate on corners and that Victorian and Edwardian architects gave corner buildings special emphasis in ways the Georgians before and the Modernists after did not.

Corner buildings are a vital device in structuring towns and cities. Functional as well as visual, the define and punctuate streets, mark the skyline and make towns and cities more legible, marking meeting, exit, and entry points, signifying important uses, assisting orientation, marking important spaces, defining boundaries, framing vistas and creating landmarks.

In Scotland, the ways of turning corners vary from city to city and town to town. The exuberant “hats” of many Glasgow corners contrast with a solid, baronial, turreted glare in Edinburgh. The centre of Dundee bristles with commercial corners formed when jute was king. Aberdeen’s corners, cut from hard worked granite are full of practical invention.

These buildings are here examined from the point of view of the contribution that they make to the structure and atmosphere of urban places rather than as buildings in their own right.