Student Work 

Programme Name: BA Architecture
Course Name: AD3 / Explorations
Course OrganiserSimone Ferracina
Tutors: Killian Doherty, Nick Mols

By understanding a place’s entirety, we can begin to re-map history, as we can only truly set a course for a brighter future if we open our minds to learn from past mistakes and wrongdoings – both to people and environments. The Decommissioning of Dundas is an explorative design project that calls for a re-mapping of Edinburgh’s darker histories in the context of Scottish Enlightenment—exploring and exposing the exploitation that occurred to the people and land to construct Edinburgh’s celebrated New Town. The research focuses on the exploits of one particular political individual, Henry Dundas, who held powerful influence in and outwith Scotland.

Following a thread of exploitation in the name of Dundas, our research led us out of the Edinburgh quarries across oceans and continents. The colonial influence of Edinburgh’s elite would reverberate to the distant landscapes of Western Australia, where it would leave deep scars, having planted a seed that would grow over the centuries to exploit men and natural ecology through the vast infrastructure of gold mining.

The design proposal itself aims to portray a more complete version of the darker histories of Edinburgh’s St Andrews Square in association with Dundas. The landscape intervention forms a stepping landscape that gestures to the mining forms found on the quarries and miningscapes of Edinburgh and Western Australia. This landscape is abundant with wild flora and native trees, pointing to the ecology lost and damaged through man’s vast intervention on once natural landscapes. The earth excavated from the ground is re-used to create natural ‘living’ mounds, which again gesture to the toxic tailings that permeate mining landscapes. Monolithic towers are erected throughout the New Town, constructed of poured earth taken from the excavated landscape. Finally, the buildings and statues with historic associations with the Transatlantic Slave Trade are deconstructed. The building interiors are removed, the façades are retained, and the ‘hollow’ interior spaces become green pockets throughout the city. The design proposal encourages people to consider the hidden histories of the site by bringing them to the forefront of public knowledge. Furthermore, the proposal breathes an element of ‘lost’ life and ecology into a city that took from nature and the common people in its construction.