The Old College was designed by Robert Adam and was created in order to replace a number of buildings that were old and dilapidated. Subscriptions were raised to help arrange for the erection of the Old College and work began
Work continued for several years until the death of the designer, Robert Adam, which saw the building work cease for a number of years. By 1815 no more work had been completed and further fundraising was carried out to ensure that the work could be finished.
During this recommencement of work the two courts of the building, that were originally designed by Robert Adam, were planned to be joined together to create a quadrangle. The rest of the design of the building was predominantly unchanged, except for a dome which was left out for cost reasons. This dome was later added, in 1887, with a similar design to the original one being used. This dome features in many famous photographs of the city skyline and is a prominent feature when looking across Edinburgh. The dome is topped with a Figure of Youth which is gilded and holding a torch. This is said to be the torch of learning.
The quadrangle was not completed at the time of construction, however, after being re-landscaped in 2010, it now has a beautiful lawn area that has a delightful terrace paved from beautiful stone that has a honey coloured hue to it. This area is now the entrance to the Talbot Rice Gallery and it is also where graduation celebrations are held. It was William Playfair that had the idea for the open quadrangle that is known and loved today and the great library hall is named in his honour.
It was during the re-landscaping, in 2010, that archaeologists made a significant discovery. Remains were found that related to the old library and this included scientific equipment that was used by Joseph Black. Joseph was responsible for discovering carbon dioxide, among other discoveries, and pieces of the original equipment he used, such as thermometers and chemicals, was found buried in the grounds here.
The Old College has incredible architecture and features a beautiful carved panel located above the main entrance. This is a tribute to the original designer, Robert Adam. Another wonderful feature of this building is the library which is used to host lectures and even dinners.
Being home to Playfair Library Hall means that Old College has much to offer. The Playfair Library Hall is often noted as being one of the finest locations that Edinburgh has to offer. With its vast length, at almost 200 feet, a vaulted ceiling and stunning columns it is breathtakingly beautiful.
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