Edinburgh World Heritage

Calton Hill - William Playfair

William Playfair designed many of Edinburgh’s classical public buildings – and many of the buildings on and around Calton Hill.

He was born in London into a very distinguished family. His father was an architect and his uncles were the mathematician Professor John Playfair, and the engineer and economist William Playfair.

He returned as a boy to his family home in Edinburgh, and as a young man set himself up as an architect.

Playfair was awarded many important projects around the city such as the Royal Academy and National Gallery on the Mound, the New Observatory and unfinished National Monument on Calton Hill. He also produced a masterplan for an extension of the New Town, in the area to the north of the hill.

Playfair’s classical buildings are largely responsible for the city’s title, the ‘Athens of the North’.

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