90 for 90: Fountainbridge Library and the Building Centre

I was delighted to be one of 90 industry experts invited to choose a building or public space, built within the past 90 years, to celebrate the opening of the Building Centre in 1931. It is overseen by the Built Environment Trust charity, whose aim is ‘to inspire, connect and empower people to improve the quality of the built environment, recognising that the built environment shapes lives and communities.’

Fountainbridge Library, Dundee Street, Edinburgh, 2020
(c) Fotofling Scotland – Richard Findlay

Fountainbridge Library, Edinburgh

I chose Fountainbridge Library on Dundee Street in Edinburgh, which is a rare and important example of modern Scottish architecture. It was built between 1937 and 1940 to a design by John Alexander William Grant (1886/7-1959) and opened during the blackout of World War Two. For want of a better description, the style of the building is ‘Art Deco-infused Neo-Classical’.

Low relief panel on the façade of Fountainbridge Library by Charles d’Orville Pilkington Jackson (1887-1973) 
Photo by Alice Strang 2018

Charles d’Orville Pilkington Jackson

The sculptor Charles d’Orville Pilkington Jackson (1887-1973) was responsible for the stone carving and low-relief panels on the library’s façade. The key panel illustrates the building’s purpose: a man stands reading beside a librarian at a bookcase, who advises a mother and child. All wear contemporary clothing to emphasise the library’s intended community use.

Fountainbridge Library stairwell
Photo by Alice Strang 2018

Look Up!

To walk through the entrance of Fountainbridge Library on Dundee Street in Edinburgh is to walk into the 1930s. The first thing to do on entering is to look up: the cantilevered, octagonal stairwell, topped by a cupola, is breath-taking. Originally given over entirely to library services, the building now houses two libraries as well as an NHS clinic and a Citizens Advice Bureau.

To find out more about the library, what my fellow ’90 for 90′ project selectors have chosen and the Built Environment Trust’s full programme of anniversary activities, please follow this link. For more on Fountainbridge Library, you might enjoy this feature and this article.

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