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Edinburgh big enough to beat the superblock


I can only think that professor Brian Edwards is misquoted, or quoted out of context, when he welcomes Robert Adam's plan for Leith by stating: 'Edinburgh has always been based on Neo-Classical principles.' (AJ 10.3.05) The essence of Edinburgh lies in the tension between the loosefit planning of the medieval Old Town and the planning of the Classical New Town - a recent introduction, from the late 18th century. Pre-Georgian Scottish urban planning was based around long, linear 'mercats' (markets) with narrow closes off - the classic 'fishbone' pattern - which gives the lie to the Krier brothers' dogmatic insistence that the European city consists entirely of squares, streets and blocks.

Such thinking represents the triumph of one model - the European superblock, with its overshadowed and claustrophobic back courts - over all others.

While Adam's plan (detail above) may well be humane and sensible, I'd like to think that in Edinburgh - as elsewhere - it is not considered the only approach possible.

Malcolm Fraser , Malcolm Fraser Architects, Edinburgh

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