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www.nadfas.org.ukNADFAS REVIEW / AUTUMN201055severe Doric sister (by the samearchitect, Edinburgh's own GreekRevival w√ľnderkind, William HenryPlayfair) the Royal Institution, now moreusually called the Royal ScottishAcademy. If I pause between these twoGreek temples a sight of great wondergreets me. Above, to the south west,rises the vast grey bulk of the Castle, 'insullen grandeur. like the stronghold ofsome giant of romance', as an 18th-century English visitor observed. Thenthere is the late 19th-century pink-and-white confection of Ramsay Garden,incorporating the 'goose-pie' villa of thepoet Allan Ramsay: this was intended asa House of the Muses or a fane of the'sister arts' where his son, the greatEnlightenment portrait-painter of thesame name maintained a studio.Ramsay Garden is Continental Europecome to frosty north-facing Edinburgh, alandmark agglomeration of building thatgives the Old Town ridge a flavour andan exoticism not elsewhere to be found.Then comes the twin-towered NewCollege divinity school of the university.This is the inventive and versatile Playfairagain, working in a style far removedfrom his Greek Revival manner. Risingapparently between Playfair's twintowers is the immensely tall andbeautiful spire of the slightly earlierTolbooth Church by James GillespieGraham and AWNPugin. Togetherthese two neo-Gothic buildings, sosubtly related and apparently aligned,and also on an axis with the neo-GreekGalleries, seem to encapsulate in onesmall area of townscape the essence ofEdinburgh's dual cultural nature.I look further still to south and east.Before me is the Old Town ridge -spiky,pepper-potted, irrational, jumbled,windswept, and looking absolutely itsbest when wearing a swirling mist ortholing a drizzling rain. Presiding over allis the distinctive Gothic crown tower ofSt Giles. This is the Old Edinburgh of SirWalter Scott's Marmion, where isdescribed the poet's 'own romantictown' -'piled deep and massy, closeand high'. Even a Classical intruder likethe Bank of Scotland is really a castle,albeit one in vaguely sub-RomanBaroque dress, but you can see it is afortress of capitalism -a bastion of afinancial probity now breached. Furtheralong are more masses of buildingpurporting to be venerable, turreted andgabled, heavy with a Victorian notion ofwhat the Old Edinburgh townscapeEdinburgh is often regarded as the city which displays parexcellence two of the great characteristics of the human soulin their artistic expression -classicism and romanceEDINBURGHImagery: Alexander Nasmyth painting courtesy of National Gallery of Scotland

56NADFAS REVIEW / AUTUMN 2010www.nadfas.org.ukmatch the way that the country is 'calledin': those long vistas that lift the heartwhen, from a nondescript New Townintersection, one of Robert LouisStevenson's 'draughty parallelograms',you glimpse sea, estuary, woods, orHighland hills. Informal Nature is theperfect foil for the formal Art of its greatGreek buildings and the enduring dreamof the place as, on the one hand, therational, planned city of theEnlightenment; on the other as a faeriehaunt of high romance. There is astylistic and cultural term, 'RomanticClassicism'. And that perhaps bestcaptures the peculiar magic of thecapital and its complex, dual identity. should be. Nearer to hand is theextraordinary fantasy Gothic space-rocket of the Scott Monument, thenational memorial to the man who, morethan any other individual, invented themodern notion of Scotland and itshistory. Beam me up, Scotty! Thisstructure encapsulates, in its ownhistory, the larger story of Edinburgh'sromantic-classic dichotomy. A Gothicdesign was called for after Playfair hadproposed a gigantic obelisk, more suitedto Karnak or Kom Ombo.Beyond the lumpish bulk of theBalmoral Hotel is Calton Hill, properlythe Acropolis of the Modern Athens, andbearing on its summit the 12 columnsand architrave of the unfinishedParthenon. This replica was intended asa national monument to the Scottishdead of the French wars, but thefragment survives only as 'Edinburgh'sDisgrace' or 'Scotland's Folly', symbolicof the hubris that led to a building soexpensive that it could not becompleted. This 'ruined' Parthenontakes centre stage in a temenos ofnational virtue, a Scottish Valhalla wherepoets and philosophers arecommemorated. Nearby, beyond thecastellated remains of a vast bridewell, Ican glimpse the old Royal High School,by far the finest Greek building of theentire city and the one in the mostperfectly 'romantic' setting, looking outtowards stupendous, volcanic Arthur'sSeat. Rising oddly on the Calton, amongall the classic architecture, is the eclecticfolly-like, telescope-inspired tower,battlemented and castellated, inmemory of Nelson. This was a structurecondemned in its day precisely becauseit appeared an insult to the Classicalpretensions of the city, and on thegrounds that it conformed to norecognisable and archaeologically-basedGreek or Roman original. The witshoped that earthquake or landslip wouldsometime heave it off its rocky perch. Frequently you find urban views whichjuxtapose the Classical with theRomantic and the built with the natural:the dome of the University's Old Collegeseen against the rugged slopes ofArthur's Seat; the unfinished Parthenonagainst the jagged background ofSalisbury Crags; the High School andthe Burns Monument, modelled on thatof Lysicrates, with a backdrop of theCalton's wooded southern bluffs, asseen from the Canongate Kirkyard. The Old Town is incontrovertiblyRomantic, even where buildings such asParliament House have been given aNeo-Classical 'skin' for the sake ofgentility. Behind the 'ponderousAdamesque wallpaper' of the show-front, the pre-existing 17th-centurybartizan survives with its top literally cutoff. The New Town can, for all itssplendour, elegance and extent,sometimes pall. It needs brilliantsunshine to appear at its best: then theprecisely cut Craigleith stone, worked tosubtly different finishes, looks its finest.The geometrically laid-out streets seemdreich and dreary in the wet. Many of itsstreet frontages are bland. Ruskinsensed this when, before lecturing to thegood folk of Edinburgh in the RoyalCollege of Physicians (where EDFAS hasits lectures), he had walked along QueenStreet laboriously counting the hundredsof identical windows. But nothing canLeft:'Scotland'sFolly', theParthenon onCalton Hill,and the much-mockedNelsonMonumentBelow:The NationalGallery lyingbetween Oldand NewTowns