Morris and Steedman 1966-67, incorporating earlier boundary walls. Single storey, arrowhead-plan, Modernist house with oversailing flat roofs and central raised clerestory. Set on prominent precipice on ground falling steeply to SW in former walled policy of Airthrey Castle (see separate listing). Painted render, coursed random rubble base course, deeply set to rear. Predominantly rendered N and E elevations; stepped N elevation with walls enclosing deeply recessed doorways to right (W) with rectangular sidelights and timber louvers; open carport to far left (E). Small advanced perpendicular rendered fins to E elevation with tall narrow windows to left (S) of each fin. Continuous runs of horizontal windows to S and W elevations wrapping around corners.
Predominantly large pane plate glass in rectangular timber casement windows; some fixed pane glazing to E elevation and clerestory. Deep timber platform roof; capped aluminium flue and felt covered water tanks to centre.
INTERIOR: simple Modern Movement interior with predominantly open-plan public rooms; private rooms accessed off single service corridor. Interior characterised by large areas of glazing and high ceilings. Open-plan lounge to apex of plan with built in cupboards under windows and wide rectangular stone hearth. Doors full height floor to ceiling with plain timber frames. Some original floor to ceiling built-in cupboards in bedrooms.
Statement of Special Interest
A-group with Nuffield Staff Houses at Nos. 2 -7 Airthrey Castle Yard (see separate listings). An outstanding example of a post-War Modernist private house by one of Scotland's most important practices of this period who were leaders in avant-garde house design. The house demonstrates an innovative linear plan which relates sensitively to its natural setting in a former walled policy of Airthrey Castle (see separate listing). The Principal's house is the key building in an outstanding grouping of bespoke modernist houses which includes the staff houses. The original character and design is not significantly altered by later minor alteration. Its interior treatment is simple yet refined providing a suite of entertainment spaces (as specified by the first principal, Tom Cottrell) and uses high quality materials and finishes throughout.
The intervisibility of the main spaces is a key component of the open-plan nature of the group of houses designed for Airthrey Castle Yard. This treatment of interior spaces is also a common theme within the work of Morris and Steedman and works in tandem with skilled control of the flow of public and private spaces. Particularly successful is how the space is conceived carefully to reveal both internal and external vistas.
The house has a distinctive rectilinear form, which is emphasised by the large oversailing roof appearing to float above several runs of continuous horizontal windows to the rear (SW) whilst the smoothness of the walls to the front (NE) also creates the same effect. The overtly Modernist form in its long low profile responds sensitively to the site in woodland and set against a dramatic craggy backdrop, a device common throughout the work of Morris and Steedman. This is further emphasised by the stepping of the building into the slope and the incorporation of the walls of the former walled policy. The relatively closed entrance elevation with timber louvers covering the doors sidelights contrasts markedly to the predominantly glazed aspect of the garden/campus elevation, and is another common feature in their work.
The practice of Morris and Steedman is recognised as a pioneer of modern architecture in Scotland. James Shepherd Morris (1931-2006) and Robert Russell Steedman (b.1929) both graduated in architecture from Edinburgh School of Art in 1955 before pursuing further studies in landscape architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia where they studied under Philip Johnson. This understanding of landscape and architecture is akin to the Japanese tradition and can be seen in their sensitive reaction to site in their designs. Relevant comparisons can be made to their houses at Ravelston Dykes; Avisfield, Edinburgh; Kevock Road, Lasswade. Their design philosophy was also much influenced by the American work of Johnson and the ideals of Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer and Richard Neutra. They returned to Edinburgh to establish their architectural practice in 1957. Although they designed a number of high profile public buildings the practice was best known for its special contribution to domestic architecture during the 1950s, 60s and 70s usually working closely with enlightened clients.
Tom Cottrell was the first Principal of the University of Stirling. He had trained as a scientist, although coming from an artistic background. He strongly believed that art should be part of the everyday experience at the University and as well as putting the emphasis on collecting, he was also a keen proponent of high quality design, and was influential on the design process for the Principal's and staff houses.