Skip to content
Print
Listed Building

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

Linksview House, Tolbooth Wynd and Kirkgate, Leith, EdinburghLB52404

Status: Designated

Documents

Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions.

Summary

Information

  • Category: A
  • Date Added: 30/01/2017

Location

  • Local Authority: Edinburgh
  • Burgh: Edinburgh

National Grid Reference

  • NGR: NT 27056 76276
  • Coordinates: 327056, 676276

Description

Linksview House was built between 1964 and 1967 to the designs of Alison & Hutchison & Partners with Robert Forbes Hutchison as the senior partner and Walter Scott as the partner in charge. Francis W Tinson was the senior assistant. The contractor for the scheme was J Smart and Co and the structural engineers were Blyth & Blyth. It is a 10-storey slab block of flats with private and public access balconies and is located within the Kirkgate area of Leith, a post-war urban redevelopment scheme built in phases during 1960s. The building is a modern Brutalist design and comprises a rectangular plan slab block. It is set on splayed reinforced concrete supports at the ground floor and is characterised by undercrofts and concrete finishing, but primarily by its patterned horizontal elevation that faces in to the Kirkgate precinct acting as a wall which defines its boundary to the east.

It is constructed with an in-situ concrete cross frame with large aggregate pre-cast concrete panel cladding. The building contains 95 flats and are accessed by 2 lifts leading to galleried decks on the 2nd, 5th and 8th floors. The windows and glazed balcony doors have been replaced by uPVC units. Most main doors to the decks are later replacements.

The interior public circulation spaces were seen in 2014. There are 2 lifts located off-centre of the plan and two to the east. There are wide galleried decks located to the east side of the building which are enclosed by partially ventilated glazed panels. There is a refuse chute system at each deck.

Statement of Special Interest

Linksview House is among the best of Scotland's post-war mass urban housing schemes and closely follows recently emerging theoretical interest in community planning, using external access decks as a way of recreating the civic spirit of traditional tenemented streets. With Cables Wynd House, Linksview House is among the most accomplished architecturally, characterising the 'New Brutalism' in building current to the late 1950s and the 1960s, laying bare the essential materials of a building's construction, and here using reinforced and in situ concrete. Built within a period of shifting architectural ideologies for social housing, it demonstrates a culmination of contemporary architectural theories, bearing a close resemblance to Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation model housing and other notable near-contemporary English schemes.

While Glasgow's housing policies dominated the Scottish debate on housing and slum clearance, the redevelopment in Central Leith was an equally significant achievement by the Edinburgh Burgh Council who in the early 1960s were fully committed to rehousing the city's working classes in high quality schemes but which also addressed the need for high density. It is significant that a private architectural practice led the design, showing the contemporary interest in Brutalist architecture and delivering one of Scotland's most ambitious inner-city developments of its time. The building is a key component of the comprehensive redevelopment of the Kirkgate area of Leith and ties into the precinct housing and its companion slab block, Cables Wynd House (listed at category A - LB52403).

Age and Rarity

Leith was the focus of slum clearance programmes between the 1950s and 1970s that resulted in the loss of the historic Kirkgate and the construction of a number of large public housing schemes. The development of Kirkgate is bounded by Tolbooth Wynd (north), Cables Wynd (west), Yardheads (south) New Kirkgate (southeast) and also includes the slightly later Linksview House, another prominent multi-storey slab block which terminates an extensive courtyard of low rise housing. Linksview House was erected as part of the second phase of the Citadel and Central Leith Redevelopment Area (RDA) which was approved by the Edinburgh Burgh Council in 1963. The block was completed in 1967.

Housing and health was the utmost concern of the state following the upheaval of the Second World War and significant social reforms such as the introduction of the National Health Service were brought forward as a matter of national importance. The aim of building mass housing for communities after the war was seen as an essential and rational solution to address the issues of slum-clearance and housing and health improvement, a concern for Scotland's largest cities from the middle of the 19th century.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the garden city movement was a chief preoccupation of reformers who were concerned with improving housing conditions and this thinking informed the emerging programme of town planning and public housing in the first half of the century. Reforms during this period, which included a series of public housing acts led to gradual change and support for social housing.

The 1947 Town and Country Planning Act led to significant changes in housing and planning on a national scale which contributed directly to the welfare of the nation. Regional plans such as the Clyde Valley Regional Plan of 1946, specifically addressed the 'overspill' of population into peripheral communities and directly led to the introduction 'New Towns' to ease pressure on overcrowded cities, and in particular Glasgow. But city officials were keen to ensure that they had control over the management of housing and urban development and identified and promoted comprehensive redevelopment areas (CDAs) within their administrative boundaries as an alternative to regional planning and thus began a large coordinated programme of public-sponsored mass housing. This in turn led to interest in high density mass housing as a natural and essential solution to overcrowding and slum-clearance, epitomised by the enormous group of flats at Red Road, in Glasgow (1962-9 - demolished).

While many of the high rise buildings being erected were provided by contractors in collaboration with local authority architects' departments, by the late 1950s, some of the more architecturally innovative schemes were by architects in private practice. Around this time, the functionalist concepts of the early modernist period of imposed and comprehensive architectural order on society, prevalent in the 1930s and '40s and typified by 'all-flats' schemes, was shifting towards socially inclusive architectural solutions and community planning, and by contrast was exemplified by the new mixed-development scheme. The garden city model was not favoured nor practical in urban areas but neither was the model of high-flats only.

Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation (1947-52) at Marseille, France, is widely recognised as the initial inspiration to this change in philosophy and his large slab block of flats located in a parkland setting, which included shops, leisure and other social amenities as part of the development, was the architectural embodiment of a utopian concept of city living known as the 'ville radieuse' or the vertical city. It proved enormously influential and is often cited as the initial inspiration of the Brutalist architectural style and philosophy, which at Marseille (and at the other Unité schemes found in France and elsewhere) applied a raw concrete aesthetic (béton brut) to maximise the possibilities of new materials and building technologies to achieve its theoretical aims.

Early adopters of the new thinking in Britain were found in London and other large cities such as the housing complexes at the Golden Lane Estate, 1953-63 (listed Grade II*), the Alton West Estate in Roehampton, London, (1955-8 – listed Grade II*) 5 long 10-storey slab blocks of maisonettes in a parkland setting, and Park Hill in Sheffield (1957-60 – listed Grade II*). Park Hill, famously known for its 'streets in the sky' is of importance as the first built manifestation of a widespread theoretical interest in external access decks as a way of building high without the problems of isolation and expense encountered with point blocks. Other expressions of the Unité concept include the Barbican Estate (completed 1963-1982 – listed Grade II), Balfron Tower (1965-7 – listed Grade II), and Trellick Tower (1968-73 – listed Grade II), all in London.

Scotland's cities also responded with ambitious schemes in Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen, all focusing on the ever pressing need for slum-clearance with the help of forward thinking city planners, engineers and housing chiefs, such as Robert Bruce and David Gibson in Glasgow. The Gorbals area of Glasgow, a notorious slum in the south of the city, plagued by overcrowding, saw the erection of multi-storey housing by architects in private practice, including Basil Spence's renowned Hutchesontown C (1961-6 – demolished) scheme and Hutchesontown B in 1958 (altered) by Robert Matthew who was leading Scotland in social housing reform, establishing the Housing Research Unit at the University of Edinburgh in 1959. One of the most distinguished of the tower block schemes in Glasgow was Anniesland Court, Glasgow (1966 – listed category A, LB43034), itself a megastructure with integrated shops.

Like Glasgow, Edinburgh had a slum problem but unlike Glasgow, it didn't have the problem with access to land. Private architects continued to play a role and at Leith a competition was held for the comprehensive redevelopment at Leith Fort, by Shaw-Stewart, Baikie & Perry (1957-66 – now demolished) which included high-rise point blocks with a combination of courtyard houses and a deck access block. The monumentality of many of these schemes is characteristic of Scottish mass-housing developments with Park Hill the only one in England approaching the same scale. With the support of the enthusiastic Edinburgh housing chair, Pat Rogan, the city's busiest period was during the 1960s with a surge of new schemes were approved and begun across the city. By 1965 Edinburgh had finally caught up with Glasgow in terms of its per capita rate of building high flats with around new 28 schemes built as part of this building boom (Glendinning and Muthesius, 1994).

In this wider context, Linksview House is considered an important example in Scotland of post-war multi-storey block of flats. Linksview House has not been largely altered since it was first built and as many multi-storey schemes have been demolished in the city and across Scotland, it is understood to be an important surviving example of its type.

Architectural or Historic Interest

Interior

The treatment of the interior communal spaces is typically sparse and functional with in situ concrete flooring, ceramic tiling to lift areas for example. Individual flat interiors were not seen and have not been taken into account as part of this assessment.

Plan form

The orientation of the building on a north-south axis was the recommended arrangement for high flats at this date, with preference given to this alignment to allow for maximum light penetration to the houses.

Lifts were expensive and in tall point blocks were notoriously slow, therefore based on contemporary building theory, a long plan was chosen so that more houses per floor could be accommodated.

Early deck access flats (of the interwar and early post-war period) were known to have problems with maintaining privacy and reducing noise due to constant foot traffic. The plan set out by the architects at Linksview House has neatly eradicated this inconvenience by setting out the 3 decks at the 2nd, 5th and 8th floors only with a repetitive series of 3 main entrance doors entering the flat at deck level (with no bedrooms set next to the deck) as well as accessing the flats immediately above and below. For convenience a pram store and storage is set next to each set of 3 doors.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

Linksview House is a good example of Brutalist architecture in Scotland and uses concrete for both aesthetic and practical ends.

In its construction, Linksview House uses a concrete cross wall method which meant that balconies could be recessed within the contour of the building and allowed for a greater variety in architectural pattern for setting out the elevation. As at the Unité d'Habitation, the aesthetic use of repetitive pattern is used at Linksview House to its maximum effect, especially in such a monumental elevation.

The early 1960s was the new age of environmental control and designer-architects, like Alison & Hutchison & Partners were able to incorporate the latest technology to provide convenience, comfort and economy in large housing schemes.

Linksview House is up to date in providing the latest conveniences for mass living which include the placement of bathrooms at the centre of the block because of innovations in ventilation, the extensive use of underfloor heating and a modern refuse shoot system.

Alison & Hutchison & Partners of Edinburgh worked extensively in Central Scotland and the Borders between 1958 and the early 1970s, almost entirely in the public sector and were early adopters of the emerging Brutalist aesthetic. They were responsible for a large proportion of housing redevelopment in Central Leith, including the point blocks in Couper Street (1961-5). Their principal works include the Grangepans redevelopment of Bo'ness, 1958-9, Paisley College of Technology, 1953-63, Woodcroft Telephone Exchange 1958-64 (previously listed at category C - demolished), Napier College, Merchiston Campus, Edinburgh (1964-1); Lynebank Hospital (1965 – listed category B LB52192); St Andrew's R C Church, Livingston (1969-70 – listed category B, LB52188) and St Gabriel's Church, Prestonpans (1965- listed category B, LB52187)

The partner in charge of the Linksview House, Harry Horace MacDonald (1916-2015, ARIBA, FRIBA) was senior architect with Burnet, Tait & Partners in 1952, having worked with the renowned industrial architect James Shearer on a number of hydro-electric schemes in the 1940s. He became a full partner with Alison & Hutchison in 1961.

Setting

Linksview House is situated within a predominantly residential area, surrounded by traditional tenements to the south and west, and contemporary courtyard housing including its companion Cables Wynd House block of flats, to west and north, which have been designed as a late modernist architectural set piece in urban planning terms. The immediate setting is directly reflective of the wider urban area with a multiplicity of commercial and industrial uses co-existing within a predominantly residential area, characterised by modern interventions into surviving elements of the 18th and 19th century streetscape.

The building is a key component of the comprehensive redevelopment of the Kirkgate area of Leith and ties into the precinct housing and its companion slab block, Cables Wynd House.

Regional variations

There are no known regional variations.

Close Historical Associtations

There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance at present (2016).

The tall flats at the Kirkgate have gained popular interest after its neighbouring block, Cables Wynd House, featured in Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting. The flats were the childhood home of the character Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson in Welsh's internationally acclaimed novel. The location has been frequently chosen as a subject for architectural photography and filming. In 2007, the location was used during filming of the television drama 'Wedding Belles', also by Irvine Welsh.

In the 21st century, Linksview House is recognised for its contribution to Edinburgh and Scottish culture and its sense of identity as it is regarded both as a positive and negative architectural icon, representing a period of great social reconstruction in Scotland's cities.

References

Bibliography

Canmore: http://canmore.org.uk/ CANMORE ID 137762

Printed sources

Architect's Journal (28 December 1966), p.1608 (Couper Street development).

Building (22 December 1961). p1205.

Docomomo Scottish National Group (2005). 'A guided study tour: Alison and Hutchison in Edinburgh'. Unpublished tour notes.

Edinburgh Corporation Housing Committee (1972) Annual Visit to Housing Developments. Edinburgh: Pillans and Wilson Ltd

Gifford, J., McWilliam, C and Walker, D. (1984, 1988 ed). The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh. London: Penguin Books. p.467.

Glendinning, M. and Muthesius, S. (1994) Tower Block: Modern Public Housing in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Glendinning, M. (1997). Rebuilding Scotland: The post-war vision 1945-75. East Lothian: Tuckwell Press.

Glendinning, M., MacInnes, R, and, MacKechnie, A. (1996). A History of Scottish Architecture. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Harwood, E. (2008) "Mass Housing as the Essential Twentieth Century Building Type" in Harwood, E. and Powers, A. (eds.) Housing the Twentieth Century Nation. Twentieth Century Architecture Vol 9. Pp9-11.

Harwood, E. England's Post-war Listed Buildings. London: Batsford.

Harwood, E. (2016). Space Hope and Brutalism. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

McDowell, D. Ed. (2009). Scotland: Building for the Future. Essays on the architecture of the post-war era. Edinburgh: Historic Scotland.

McDowell, D. (2012). Glasgow's Port-war Listed Buildings. Glasgow: Historic Scotland and City of Edinburgh Council.

The Architectural Review (1 January 1962).

The Builder (28 June 1963). p1322.

Online sources

City of Edinburgh Conservation Area Appraisal, Central Leith (n.d.) http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/downloads/file/1099/leith_conservation_area_character_appraisalpdf [accessed 21/07/2016]

Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Robert Forbes Hutchison http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=205443

[accessed 21/07/2016]

Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Alison & Hutchison & Partners

http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=400256 [accessed 21/07/2016]

Tower Block

http://towerblock.org/ [accessed 21/07/2016]

Additional information

City of Edinburgh Council, housing department (2014-16).

About Designations

Listed Buildings

Listing is the way that a building or structure of special architectural or historic interest is recognised by law through the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The statutory listing address is the legal part of the listing. The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

Listing covers both the exterior and the interior. Listing can cover structures not mentioned which are part of the curtilage of the building, such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. The planning authority is responsible for advising on what is covered by the listing including the curtilage of a listed building. For information about curtilage see www.historicenvironment.scot. Since 1 October 2015 we have been able to exclude items from a listing. If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect current legislation.

If you want to alter, extend or demolish a listed building you need to contact your planning authority to see if you need listed building consent. The planning authority is the main point of contact for all applications for listed building consent.

Find out more about listing and our other designations at www.historicenvironment.scot. You can contact us on 0131 668 8716 or at designations@hes.scot.

Images ()

Linksview House, looking west, with trees and large open paved area to foreground.
Linksview House, looking east, with cars and tree in foreground.

Map

Map

Printed: 18/10/2017 21:34