Architecture divides opinions – particularly modern buildings. But when we at Historic Environment Scotland (HES) ‘list’ modern buildings – to recognise their special architectural or historic interest and to ensure that this is considered during the planning process – it is because there is something important about them. They are worth taking notice of.
Of course, they don’t look like 18th or 19th century architecture or use the same materials; there was no heritage blueprint in the 1950s for designing Scotland’s first modern multi-storey car park – a whole new type of architecture had to be created for the way that we were living then. Look at the amazing range of post-war listed buildings in Edinburgh, from the Banana Flats to the Commonwealth Pool.
These carefully designed buildings show us how we live, not only in the latter half of the 20th century but also today – and all these buildings continue to have a positive use. The Castle Terrace Car Park is part of that.
This was not a hastily put together design. The engineer, Frank Dinnis, visited Copenhagen to check out the latest designs and was inspired by what he saw and brought that level of modernist innovation to Scotland.
It’s not just us at HES who think buildings from this period are interesting – we’re doing what people are asking us to. One of the biggest growing areas of our work are applications from people asking us to look at listing more modern buildings which represent real lives. I believe that listed buildings shouldn’t just represent the history of the wealthy and elite, they are for everyone.
Will we get to a stage soon where listing something made of concrete and built after 1950 is thought about without the automatic knee-jerk reaction that it will be badly built and ugly? I don’t know, but I think it’s time for us to be positive and celebrate the fantastic range of buildings we have – including looking at the newer ones through fresh eyes and without aesthetic prejudice. Listing high quality modern buildings should be part of the everyday, and everyone should champion the variety and quality of Scotland’s heritage from all periods of time and for all types of people.
Elizabeth McCrone – Head of Designations at Historic Environment Scotland
This article was originally published in Edinburgh Evening News on 25 October 2019.