St Andrew's House

St Andrew’s House, Regent Road, Calton Hill, Edinburgh Thomas Tait of Burnet, Tait & Lorne 1935-39

View from Calton Hill

St Andrew’s House is placed at the foot of Calton Hill, a focal point in the city of Edinburgh, and at one end of the main shopping street, Princes Street. It sits in a key and central location therefore. The building is a government one and has always been. It was commissioned by the Office of Works in the 1930’s, to be built on the site of a former prison. Thomas Tait was appointed in 1934 after a series of rejected proposals.

The building has been described as, “…one of the finest thirties buildings in Scotland” (The Scottish Thirties)

Built smack bang in the Art Deco period the complex features the square central building. The wings are set back from this central hub and these are certainly inspired by the American Classicism style of architecture as are the columns and large figures.

The large front doors at the centre of the building

The stair towers have a moment in Art Deco architectural styles, inspired by German modernistic styles of the early part of the century and certainly evidence in the architecture in Berlin.

Wing set back from central block with stair towers between

The lightning pylons towards the front of the building echo the work that Tait did at the Glasgow Empire Exhibition in 1938. These were changed to flat poles in 1939.

Lighting feature

A number of sources, (The Scottish Thirties and ScotStyle) cite that Frank Lloyd Wright inspired the flat overhanging roofs of the stair towers. Tait had spent time studying in America where he had met Lloyd Wright.

Window details and flat roof design – from Calton Hill Cemetery

My favourite description of the building, and one I whole-heartedly endorse was given by Charles McKean in his book, Edinburgh, An Illustrated Architectural Guide.

“…brooding, authoritarian characteristics of the secure headquarters of an occupying power”.

I absolutely concur. The gates, the stone, the stair towers, the huge doors made me feel like the building was the workplace of Winston in George Orwell’s 1984.

The occupying power headquarters

This is a beautiful building in an amazingly accessible part of the city and therefore the country. Sadly as it is a government building there is no public access. I am hopeful that one day I will get in there and see those stair cases and partitions between the rooms that sink into the floors to create bigger rooms.

Other buildings designed by Tait:-

Royal Masonic Hospital in Hammersmith

Hawkshead hospital in Paisley

Adelaide House, King William Street, City of London

Peterborough House (Daily Telegraph) Fleet Street, London

Published by wishvintage

An English rose who loves and lives vintage, selling some, including Pyrex, but keeping most! #bookshopchallenge2018 to find second hand and new bookshops and not buy books on amazon. Blogging my way around bookshops and books! www.facebook.com/wishvintagestore

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