Housing 1600-2000


Detail of Ainslie Place

Scotland has some of the most distinctive urban housing in Britain. Ranging from the tenements of old centres, to Georgian terraces, to ground-breaking tower-blocks, they narrate the story of Scotland’s middle and working classes.

Historically, the Scots have built upwards. High tower-houses set in rural locations were matched with the towering tenements of old Edinburgh and other Scottish towns. When the Industrial Revolution arrived, this tendency continued: Scotland’s industrial cities, above all Glasgow, sprawled out and up. Masses of tenements were built for the lower middle classes; most though were for the poor, becoming notorious centres of deprivation.

As a complete contrast, in the later Georgian and Victorian periods a privileged few took up residence in the elegant districts and suburbs of Scottish cities. Most celebrated are the fine terraces and squares of Edinburgh’s New Town. Less well known are the splendid suburbs of Glasgow’s West End, and it is to Glasgow we must go to review some of the boldest experiments in post-war public housing, on which opinion remains divided.

About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

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