the making of classical edinburgh

The Making of Classical Edinburgh is the working title of a major exhibition to be held in Edinburgh City Art Centre, from November 2019 to March 2020 (note revised dates)

It will feature photographs of the New Town from the 1960s by eminent architectural photographer Edwin Smith, contrasted with new images by Colin McLean

Youngson 1st ed cover-.jpg


The exhibition takes its title from Professor A J Youngson’s seminal book, published by Edinburgh University Press in 1966. Youngson’s text underlined the importance of the New Town and was a catalyst in changing attitudes towards it, for the New Town of the 1960s was neglected, in poor condition and in places scheduled for redevelopment.

Recognised as the best piece of Renaissance town planning in the world, Edinburgh's Georgian New Town is now part of the Old & New Towns World Heritage Site. 

Youngson's book was illustrated with 82 beautiful black-and-white photographs by eminent architectural photographer Edwin Smith (1912-71), and his photographs became the defining images of the city in the mid 20th century. The exhibition will feature a selection of Smith’s photographs, contrasted and compared with, and re-interpreted by a new series of images which I am currently working on.

 Royal High School by Edwin Smith c1964 (image courtesy of the RIBA)

Royal High School by Edwin Smith c1964 (image courtesy of the RIBA)

new edition of the book

Edinburgh University Press, which published the original edition, is planning a new reprint of the book to be launched to co-incide with the exhibition. I have written the preface to the new reprint.

 Royal High School by Colin McLean

Royal High School by Colin McLean

a partnership opportunity

The project team is currently seeking partners to work with us to realise this exhibition. The Edinburgh World Heritage Trust has generously provided support by acting as the project's organisational host. Edinburgh City Council has also been helpful by providing a wonderful gallery space in the City Art Centre plus technical support.

If you would like an informal chat about working in partnership with us, do please get in touch -

Colin McLean

07980 750301 or