Archives and Research


Find out how our architectural research helps us to understand our buildings and their place in the historic environment.

1 Overview

Scotland’s buildings form an important part of its heritage. Architectural research helps our understanding of our buildings, the people who built and used them, and their place in the historic environment.

Our architectural research includes:

  • the history of buildings
  • architects and architects’ practices
  • architectural styles and periods

This information is then used to determine the recording to be undertaken when staff responsible for survey and recording visit a site.

The record we create can include text, photography, drawn plans, scan data or a combination of these.

Our research then forms the basis of talks to lifelong learning partners, academic papers, scholarly web articles and publications.

2 The team

Architecture and Industry Team

Area of focus: Researching the history of Scotland’s built environment.

The Architecture and Industry Team undertakes on-site and desk-based archival research into architecture in Scotland. Our preliminary research is used to aid survey and recording staff’s on-site work, which can in turn lead to more in-depth archival research.

3 Partnerships and funding

We’re a partner in the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnership consortium.

Most of our funding comes from Historic Environment Scotland’s core budget. We have also received small grants from the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the National Trust for Scotland for work relating to their properties, including Halligarth Woodland and the Little Houses.

4 Projects

Historic schools research

We have nearly finished a project involving detailed research on 20 of Scotland’s pre-1872 historic schools. Our research was interdisciplinary and drew on primary and secondary sources, along with Scotland’s extensive educational history resources.

The project aims to explain the social, historical and architectural development of the schools through a series of scholarly essays. It has involved archival research and draws extensively on evidence from the National Record of the Historic Environment. The research also included on-site investigations of the schools.

Research on post-1872 buildings is chiefly carried out through the Threatened Buildings Survey programme. This has focused on inter-war and post-war schools threatened with demolition. Our survey and analysis has been enhanced by the use of existing architectural collections.

Photography and architecture

We’re working with photographer and academic Andy Lock to examine how photography of architecture can inform wider understandings of site significance. This project is based around the everyday work of the Threatened Buildings Survey programme.

Photographs of sites may be artistic, archaeological or personal. This project seeks to provide us with different ways of approaching our photographic collections. It involves researching and photographing selected sites at the same time as considering how others approach those same sites with their own, different intentions.

Research techniques

Our architectural history research is usually undertaken by investigating and analysing buildings on site.

We also conduct archival research through our National Record of the Historic Environment and through records curated and cared for by other institutions.

5 Publications and conferences

Anderson, I. and Dixon, P., ‘Inverlochy and Lochindorb Castles – A Comparative Study’, Architectural Heritage XXII, The Journal of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, Edinburgh University Press, (2011), 1–17.
Anderson, I., ‘Recording the Historic Modern in Scotland: RMJM’s United Distillers’ demolition’, Still Architecture: Photography, Vision and Cultural Transmission conference, Cambridge, 3–5 May 2011 (unpublished proceedings), Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge (2012).

Green, S. Dumfries House: An Architectural History (2014).

Watters, D., and Glendinning, M., ‘Cumbernauld New Town: Reception and Heritage Legacy in Architectura & Urbanizmus’, Journal of Architecture and Town Planning Theory, Bratislava (2013).

Watters, D., ‘The Beautiful and the Good: Classical School Architecture and Educational Elitism in Early Nineteenth Century Edinburgh’, in Architectural History, London (2014).