Listed Building

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site only. All other information in the record is not statutory.

University of Edinburgh, David Hume Tower and Lecture Block, Including Stepped Podium, 40 George Square, EdinburghLB50189

Status: Designated


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Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NT 25981 72878
325981, 672878


DAVID HUME TOWER (BLOCK A): Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners (John Richards, project architect), 1960-1963 (Blyth & Blyth, structural engineers; Crudens, contractors). 14-storey, rectangular-plan, slab block, on E-W axis, with single-storey outshot to the rear, forming part of university faculty group in Modernist style using, set on stepped concrete podium. Reinforced concrete structure with brick infill. E and W Elevations clad in polished black slate (vertical emphasis accentuated by arrangement of slate slabs, continuing above parapet, enveloping plant room); N and S (end) elevations clad in York sandstone; random rubble Craigmillar stone at sub-podium level. Narrow projecting glazed tower to S containing fire stair. Blind N (end) elevation. Windows arranged in pairs horizontally across 7 structural bays and further horizontal articulation provided by receding façade at 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th floors; double glazed horizontal rolling windows in aluminium frames set in hardwood sub-frames. Plain main entrance with large plate glass windows to left, sheltered under cantilevered canopy. Windows deeply recessed to right creating loggia of 2 structural bays. Glass box outshot to rear with vertical metal-framed panes, black slabs to parapet above. Timber framed glazed doors at sub-podium level on Windmill Street, to E.

INTERIOR: vertical circulation by central stairs to W (George Square) side; three lifts to rear; fire stair to S. Internal accommodation comprises lecture, seminar and tutorial rooms, with staff offices and departmental libraries. Arrangement varies from floor to floor but lecture rooms are to N and libraries to S. Between these, other rooms accessed from central corridor. Larger faculty rooms at podium level; 1st floor has a conference room and Dean's offices. Extensive use of red hardwood and veneered plywood finishings and fire-screens of hardwood with wired glass. High quality fittings, including cupboards and counters. Hardwood doors have black hand-plates and kick-plates. Stair balustrades of hardwood with glass screens. Mainly rubber flooring, with black marbled linoleum on stairs and ceramic tiles in entrance foyer.

DAVID HUME TOWER LECTURE BLOCK (BLOCK B): Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners (John Richards, project architect), 1961-1963 (Blyth & Blyth, structural engineers; Crudens, contractors). 2-storeys, with basement at sub-podium level, rectangular-plan lecture block, forming part of university faculty group in Modernist style using, set on stepped concrete podium. Lecture Block sits on the edge of the podium to NE of Hume Tower. Reinforced concrete construction with reinforced concrete walls. Exterior clad with York stone slabs; cast concrete exposed beneath overhangs. Blind 2nd storey dominates façade contrasting with row of timber-framed doors and windows under overhang to W elevation. Row of timber-framed windows at basement to E. Cantilevered overhangs at front and rear express the raked seating and performance areas.

INTERIOR: horizontally divided into three auditoria, 2 seating 251, and larger room with 352 seats. Each has 2 entrances with stairs from the foyer/crush space. Linking stair to basement-level circulation space of faculty complex. Basement houses refectory kitchen, rest rooms and listening rooms, with windows to E.

PODIUM: stepped podium extending along the whole S and half of E sides of George Square accommodating group of low buildings arranged around a feature tower (Hume Tower) to SE. Buildings linked at sub-podium level, where corridor, refectory and other rooms are lit by windows onto a sunken garden court. Service access and car parking in the southernmost part, with vehicle entrances on Buccleuch Place and Windmill Lane. A wide stair descends to Buccleuch Place to S. Podium deck is a slab of concrete cast using fibreglass pans, its grid resolving the different spans of the buildings and coffered concrete roof exposed internally. Podium paved with textured Granolithic slabs. Some areas to basement wall faced with random rubble and sunken court surfaced with 18th century granite setts, both recycled from site.

Statement of Special Interest

A-Group with William Robertson Building (Block C); Adam Ferguson Building (Block D); George Square Theatre (Block E); Edinburgh University Library (see separate list descriptions).

The Arts Faculty group is one of the key monuments of Scottish Modernism and represents both the aspirations of the nation for its post-war Higher Education system and the ideals of some of Scotland s premier architects. Since then, the David Hume Tower has become one of the city s landmarks and, along with the Appleton Tower, is a distinctive feature on the skyline.

The architecture is of a very high standard of design and execution and the materials, especially in the tower, are of exceptional quality. John Richards, project architect for the first phase, went on to design the Royal Commonwealth Pool (see separate listing). The tower provides the vertical feature for the George Square campus and expresses the ideal of non-rhetorical monumentality that Sir Robert Matthew sought for public buildings. The buildings also demonstrate Matthew s interest in a particularly Scottish variety of, Modernism in which continuity with tradition is addressed through the use of materials especially stone and timber. But here the traditional roofing material is cut into thick slabs for the wall cladding of the tower. This material proved too expensive to use on the other faculty buildings, however, but there are other traditional surfaces, such as harling and random rubble on walls at sub-podium level. The York stone slabs are in recognition of the city s acres of ashlar façades.

The original concept, of 1958-1959, was by Matthew, who was Professor of Architecture at the time. But the starting point was (Sir) Basil Social Spence s development plan of 1955, in which the tower was to be the first of several. The Arts and Sciences Faculty plan, by Robert Matthew, Johnson Marshall & Partners (1964), projected further buildings to the south, including a building for Architecture, which would have obliterated Buchleuch Place and reached onto the Meadows. These would have increased the floor-space from 378,000 to 600,000 square feet. By this time Percy Johnson-Marshall, successor to Spence, had drafted his Comprehensive Development Area scheme, which involved linking the podia of University buildings with a system of upper-level segregated pedestrian circulation eastward across a redeveloped Nicolson Street.

The demolition prior to commencement of work on the tower marked the end of a battle between the University and conservation groups over the fate of the Georgian buildings in George Square. This had lasted since 1947, with calls for a Public Inquiry until the very end.

Built in two stages, blocks A and B first, followed by C, D and E. Construction began in 1960 and the buildings were in use by 1967, although work did not stop until 1970. What was actually built of the faculty group is fairly accurately represented in a model designed by Matthew in 1959, although Block C (WRB) was enlarged into an L-plan by the time of its execution. The George Square Lecture Theatre was classed as a special building, not intended exclusively for the Faculty of Arts, but included in the contract for the Arts group.

BLOCK A: The David Hume Tower provides a vertical feature and circulation hub for the faculty group. Extensive use of high quality material. One of very few buildings of the 1960s actually designed by Sir Robert Matthew, one of the most important British architects of the 20th century. The sister building to the Tower, Matthew's Queen's College Tower, which was built at the same time, provides a similar, vertical feature for the University of Dundee. The building is in good condition, though a pair of windows have been altered and the main doors have recently been replaced by metal-framed automatic ones. The original colour scheme and signage lettering have been changed, and most of the Scandinavian furniture, dispersed however, the interior joinery and fittings are generally intact (June 2004).

BLOCK B: The Lecture Block, built at the same time as the tower, is a respectful partner and integral to the original composition. The exterior is in good condition, although the main doors have recently been replaced. The decoration originally followed that of the Arts tower, with the same colour scheme and joinery, and matching furniture and fittings. Wall linings were of veneered plywood, and the floors covered in linoleum, with black rubber in the crush space. The interiors of the individual auditoriums have been refurbished, but many original joinery features, such as doors, panelling and fire screens in the foyer, remain (June 2004).

Statutory address updated (2015). Previously listed as '40 George Square, University of Edinburgh, Arts Faculty, David Hume Tower (Block A) and lecture block (Block B) including stepped podium'.



Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: CANMORE ID 122566

University Development and George Square (University of Edinburgh) (March 1960).

University of Edinburgh Comprehensive Development Area (University of Edinburgh) (1962).

Architectural Design (January 1962) p35.

Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall (RMJM) Edinburgh University Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences Development Plan (First Report: Space Requirements to 1970) (January 1964).

RMJM Edinburgh University Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences Development Plan (Second Report: Planning Proposals 1964-1970) (October 1964).

Architectural Review, (June 1968) p440.

Concrete Quarterly (April-June 1964) pp14-16.

M Glendinning, A MacKechnie, R MacInnes, History of Scottish Architecture (1996) p447.

M Glendinning (Ed.) Rebuilding Scotland (1997) pp165-167.

J Gifford, C McWilliam, D Walker The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh (1991) p245.

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Buccleuch Place elevation, University of Edinburgh, David Hume Tower and Lecture Block, Including Stepped Podium, 40 George Square, Edinburgh
Southwest Elevation, University of Edinburgh, David Hume Tower and Lecture Block, Including Stepped Podium, 40 George Square, Edinburgh

Printed: 23/07/2018 18:31