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Playfair, William Henry, 1790-1857 (architect)



  • Existence: 1790 - 1857


The architect William Henry Playfair was born in Russell Square, London, July 1789. On the death of his father, Playfair was sent to reside with his uncle in Edinburgh. Professor John Playfair, mathematician and geologist and a leading figure in the Edinburgh Enlightenment, took control of his nephew's education. Following his father's profession, the young Playfair studied under William Starke of Glasgow. His first public appointment was the laying out of part of the New Town in Edinburgh in 1815.

Then, after a visit to France in 1816, he established himself professionally by winning the commission in 1817 to complete the unfinished University buildings (leaving the front as designed by Robert and James Adam). He also designed the city's Royal Terrace and Regent Terrace on the Calton Hill estate; the unfinished National Monument on Calton Hill; and, the Royal Scottish Academy and the National Gallery on the Mound. While Playfair's most important works in Edinburgh have been executed in the Greek revivalist or classical style - earning for Edinburgh the title of 'Athens of the North' - he was competent in other styles too. He designed New College for the ten newly established Free Church of Scotland, a jagged-lined rendering of the Gothic style. He also built country houses and mansions in the Italianate and Tudor styles.

Playfair died in Edinburgh after a long illness on 27 May 1857.

Found in 163 Collections and/or Records:

Mouldings and Ornament for Drums of the Upper Museum, 23th July 1818

Identifier: Coll-13/1/1/72
Scope and Contents

simple elevation of drums

this elevation shows the outside moulding and simple ornament of drums. Also there are some guiders-line of dropping lines of the roof.

On the reverse of the drawing: Black ink pen+red ink pen watercolor (pink)

Dates: 23th July 1818

Ornaments (Full Size) for Ceiling of Lower Gallery of Museum, 21st April 1819

Identifier: Coll-13/1/1/104
Scope and Contents

Ornamental moulding detail of the ceiling with the section showing numbers of sunk pannels, and detail of sunk panels.

Dates: 21st April 1819