Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see 'About Listed Buildings' below for more information. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site

Garthdee House (Scott Sutherland School of Architecture), including Terrace Walls and Steps and excluding 1956 and later additions to south and east, Robert Gordon University, Garthdee Road, AberdeenLB47908

Status: Designated


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


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NJ 91316 3058
391316, 803058


Designed by William Smith II in 1872 Garthdee House is a 2-storey, basement and attic, 6-bay villa with Jacobean detailing, converted to a school of architecture in 1956-7. In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: the 1956-7 additions to the east by Thomas Scott Sutherland and further additions to the south and east by Thomson Taylor Craig & Donald in 1969 and 1971.

Garthdee House has tooled and coursed grey granite ashlar with polished margins. It has a base course and kneelered gables with skewputts, arrowslit openings and stone finials to apexes. Some gables have 2-storey canted windows with a parapet with ball finals.

The northwest (entrance) elevation is asymmetrical with an off-centre and advanced, curvilinear-gabled entrance bay. A 2-leaf panelled timber door with a multi-pane leaded fanlight is set in a chamfered Tudor-arched doorway and a panel above with the inscription "Scott Sutherland School of Architecture". At the first floor is a tripartite window with a hoodmould. To the gablehead is a blind shield and a fleur-de-lys stone finial to the apex. There is a slightly advanced gable to the outer left with buttress detail to the angles, an arrowslit opening to gablehead and spherical finial to apex. There is a single storey billiard room wing adjoining to far left.

The southwest elevation is symmetrical with a recessed centre bay, which has a tripartite rectangular bay window with a balustraded parapet. There is a pair of windows at first floor set below a curvilinear gable with blind shield inset, and a fleur-de-lys finial to the apex. The centre bay is flanked by gabled bays with 3-light canted windows through the ground and first floors, and a parapet with decorative spherical finials at angles.

There are a variety of glazing patterns in timber sash and case windows. The roof has grey slates with lead ridges, and coped stone skews with decoratively moulded skewputts. There are corniced gablehead and wallhead stacks with octagonal cans. There are cast iron rainwater goods with decorative brackets and hoppers to the principal elevations.

The interior, seen in 2014, is arranged around a fine double-height, square-plan hall. This hall has an arcaded gallery at first floor with pilastered round-ached openings and barley-sugar turned timber balustrades. The ceiling is coombed and panelled with a fine leaded skylight at the centre. Round-arched doorways with decoratively panelled timber tympana flank a pilastered and architraved flat-arched opening to the staircase. The staircase is flanked by bronze statues by A. Carrier on square plinths. The staircase has barley-sugar turned timber balusters, scrolled detail below treads and elegantly carved newel posts. There is a decorative leaded stair window with inset stained glass panels by Daniel Cottier. Panelled timber doors set in deep architraves with panelled rybats led to the principal rooms. The ground floor principal rooms (to the south and west of the plan) have parquet floors, fine cornices and decorative plasterwork to the ceilings. Between two rooms to the west of the plan is a flat arched opening supported on Corinthian fluted columns and pilasters.

To the west of the house are coped granite ashlar retaining walls with squat square-plan piers and stone steps.

Statement of Special Interest

In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: the 1956-7 additions to the east by Thomas Scott Sutherland and further additions to the south and east by Thomson Taylor Craig & Donald in 1969 and 1971.

Garthdee House dates to 1872 and was designed by William Smith II, an eminent Aberdeen based architect. The interior largely retains a very fine late 19th century decorative scheme, including well-detailed plaster and timberwork to its central hall and ground floor former public rooms. The stained glass inset panels to the stair window are designed by the internationally renowned designer and artist, Daniel Cottier. The exterior of the property has a number of distinguishing granite details, such as the entrance bay, with corbelled out corners, the shaped gables and canted bays with parapets and ball finials.

Garthdee House is at the centre of an estate which has been redeveloped into a university campus. It is the principal building of the former Garthdee estate and forms a good group with the associated pair of entrance lodges (proposed to be listed separately at C). The survival of this group of buildings informs our understanding of this late 19th century estate which has been redeveloped into a university campus. The immediate setting of the building has been altered by the various 20th century additions and in particularly the south (garden) elevation is now largely obscured.

Garthdee House was designed by William Smith II in 1872, for John Moir Clark, a successful local businessman who was a pioneer in the canning and curing business. Garthdee House is first shown on the 2nd edition Ordnance Survey Map of 1901. This map shows the building set in its own grounds with gate lodges to the east and west. Map evidence indicates that the footprint of Garthdee House remained largely unchanged until it was enlarged in 1956-7 for use as the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture.

In 1953 Thomas Scott Sutherland (1899–1963) bought the 20 acre Garthdee estate and lived in Garthdee House. Scott Sutherland was an Aberdeen School of Architecture graduate, who became an architect and entrepreneur and gifted the estate to Robert Gordon's College in 1953 for the building to be used as the college's School of Architecture. Scott Sutherland vacated the house in 1955 and an addition extending to the east of the house along the existing terrace was added by Scott Sutherland at a net cost of £95,000. The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture was formally opened on 24 May 1957, by Thomas Galbraith, Lord Strathclyde, Minister of State at the Scottish Office.

Administration, research and post-graduate rooms, library, small lecture room and student and staff common rooms were accommodated in Garthdee House, with the main studio and large teaching rooms housed in the new wing. The furniture was specially commissioned and attention paid to light levels.

Changes in architectural education from 1958 and increased demand for courses in surveying put pressure on the school's accommodation and the building was extended in two phases by the Aberdeenshire architectural practice Thomson, Taylor, Craig and Donald. In 1969 a large lecture theatre, and a laboratory and workshops block was added to the south and in 1971 two large blocks were added to the east, creating a small quadrangle in the middle. The 1960s/early 1970s extensions were in a very different style to the 1957 section, constructed in white concrete and brick, with dark ceramic tiled detailing and a sawtoothed roofline.

This gift of the Garthdee estate was decisive in the history of Robert Gordon University. The relocation of Gray's School of Art to Garthdee in 1967 marked the beginning of the development of the campus, and since then further land has been purchased and the campus is now the centre of the University as all other departments have relocated here. The origins of Robert Gordon University can be traced back to 1729 when Robert Gordon, an Aberdeen merchant trader, founded Robert Gordon's Hospital, to educate the young sons and grandsons of the Burgesses of the Guild who were too poor to send them to school. In 1881 the hospital became Robert Gordon's College with a secondary day school and separate adult education college. Since 1881 the training work of various other institutes and societies were transferred to the college, leading to various name changes until it was awarded university status in 1992.

Garthdee House is situated in the Pitfodels area of Aberdeen. The rural Pitfodels estate, which stretched from Cults to the Bridge of Dee, was owned by the Menzies family since the 15th century. From 1805 the last laird, John Menzies began to feu some of the estate and when he died in 1843, without any descendants the remaining estate was purchased by the Pitfodels Land Company. Brogden, in his book 'Aberdeen, An Illustrated Architectural Guide' (1998), notes that the plots varied in size, but were as large as 8-10 acres along the side of the River Dee, where Garthdee is situated. An 1895 account describes it as follows "...The greater part of the lands of Pitfodels is now studded with beautiful mansions and villas, each of which stands amid well laid out and carefully kept grounds. They mostly belong to manufacturers and gentlemen engaged in business in Aberdeen, and retired gentlemen." (Mackintosh, p.29). Large villas surrounded by trees were erected in a number of the larger plots and these continue to be a feature of this area.

William Smith II (1817-1891) was a prolific Aberdeen based architect. In 1845 he became a partner in his father's firm, and his major commission was Trinity Hall on Union Street, Aberdeen, in 1846 (see separate listing). The practice's work was wide ranging with public buildings and private houses, most notably Balmoral Castle in 1852 (listed at category A) for Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria. Many of practice's houses are designed in the Scots Tudor-Jacobean idiom which John Smith had developed from his association with William Burn's schemes for Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen, Fintray House and Auchmacoy. Brodgen notes that the composition and Jacobean detailing of Garthdee House is derived from Burn's design for Auchmacoy House in Logie-Buchan Parish (see separate listing).

The interior of Garthdee House largely retains its late 19th century decorative scheme, and has a particularly fine hall and gallery and well detailed public rooms. The retention of such detailing is remarkable for a building that is now used as offices and teaching spaces. The internationally renowned designer and artist, Daniel Cottier (1837-91) is known to have furnished and decorated the interior of Garthdee House. The extent of Cottier's work is not known but of particular interest are his stained glass inset panels to the stair window.

Daniel Cottier was born in Anderston, Glasgow and worked closely with contemporaries such as William Leiper, predominantly as a stained glass artist, decorator and furniture designer during the second half of the 19th century. His earliest documented interiors were in Aberdeen, for the miller collector and art critic Dr James Forbes White, and Cottier went on to furnish and decorate the interiors of other houses for the Aberdeen elite, including Kepplestone, the Elms in Arbroath and Garthdee and houses across Scotland, such as Holmwood near Glasgow. Cottier spent much of his career abroad and is credited with introducing the Aesthetic movement to America (where he worked with Louis Comfort Tiffany and John La Farge) and Australia

In 2015 the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture moved to The Sir Ian Wood Building on the Garthdee Campus. Garthdee House is now used as the Principal's Office.

Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2016. Previously listed with the East and West Lodges as 'Garthdee Road, Garthdee House (Scott Sutherland School of Architecture), including Terrace Walls and Steps, East and West Lodges'.



Canmore: CANMORE ID 149554.


Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1899, published 1901) Kincardineshire 007.02 (includes: Aberdeen; Banchory-Devenick; Nigg; Peterculter). 2nd Edition. 25 inches to 1 mile. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Printed Sources

Aberdeen Evening Express (03 June 1955) p.11.

Brogden, W.A. (1998) Aberdeen: An Illustrated Architectural Guide. 2nd Edition. RIAS: Edinburgh p.169.

Ellington, H. (2002). The Robert Gordon University: A History. Aberdeen: Robert Gordon University Press.

Fiddes, J (2005) Pitfodels and an Early History of Garthdee in Aberdeen Town and County History Society Magazine, Vol I, pp. 25-33.

Fiddes, J. (2007). The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture: A Commemorative History. Aberdeen: The Robert Gordon University. p.24-25, 37.

Historic Scotland (2011) Case Study 3: Cottier's in Context - Daniel Cottier, William Leiper and Dowanhill Church, Glasgow. Edinburgh: Historic Scotland. p.44

Online Sources

Dictionary of Scottish Architects. Garthdee House at (accessed 17/04/2015).

Mackintosh, J. (1895) History of the valley of the Dee, from the earliest times to the present day at (accessed 17/04/2015).

SCRAN. Garthdee House at (accessed 17/04/2015).

About Listed Buildings

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Listing is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for buildings of special architectural or historic interest as set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings which are found to be of special architectural or historic interest using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Listed building records provide an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building which has been identified by its statutory address. The description and additional information provided are supplementary and have no legal weight.

These records are not definitive historical accounts or a complete description of the building(s). If part of a building is not described it does not mean it is not listed. The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site which is known as the statutory address. Other than the name or address of a listed building, further details are provided for information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland does not accept any liability for any loss or damage suffered as a consequence of inaccuracies in the information provided. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing. Even if a number or name is missing from a listing address it will still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing also applies to buildings or structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage (or land) of the listed building as long as they were erected before 1 July 1948.

While Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating listed buildings, the planning authority is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing, including what is listed through curtilage. However, for listed buildings designated or for listings amended from 1 October 2015, legal exclusions to the listing may apply.

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 1997 Act. 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 subsequent legislation.

Listed building consent is required for changes to a listed building which affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest. The relevant planning authority is the point of contact for applications for listed building consent.

Find out more about listing and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at


Garthdee House, principal elevation, looking southeast, during daytime, on clear day, with parked cars in front of the building.
Garthdee House, west elevation, looking northeast, during daytime, on clear day, with a blue car in front of the building.

Printed: 23/06/2024 05:39