William Henry Playfair

1789 - 1857

Architect. Although born in London, Playfair came to Edinburgh at a young age and there built his reputation as a fine architect. More than any other, Playfair earned Edinburgh its title as "the Athens of the North", setting the character of the city through classical buildings, many constructed in dramatic settings.

His most significant works include the elegant town houses of Royal Terrace, Carlton Terrace and Regent Terrace, the National Gallery of Scotland, New College of the University of Edinburgh, Donaldson's Hospital, the Royal College of Surgeons and the National Monument on Calton Hill, designed as a memorial to the dead of the Napoleonic wars and modelled on the Parthenon in Greece, but never finished due to lack of funds. He completed Old College at the University of Edinburgh, following the death of Robert Adam, with the Upper Library in particular recognised as a masterpiece. Dollar Academy was another of Playfair's fine works.

His father James Playfair (1755 - 94), was also an architect, and his Uncle was Professor John Playfair (1748 - 1819), famous in the fields of geology and natural philosophy.

He is buried in Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh and commemorated by a statue in Chambers Street outside the Royal Museum of Scotland.

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