Nostalgia: Now there’s a site for eyesores

A bulldozer piles up waste as the demolition of St James Square in Edinburgh continues in August 1966.

A bulldozer piles up waste as the demolition of St James Square in Edinburgh continues in August 1966.

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IT has become known as one of Edinburgh’s most unloved buildings for its brutalist architecture.

Doubts this week emerged over the massive £850 million St James Quarter revamp, although developers insist they remain on track to complete the ambitious vision to rid the city of the eyesore.

The Queen outside the St James Centre in Edinburgh in July 1975 after she opened New St Andrews House.

The Queen outside the St James Centre in Edinburgh in July 1975 after she opened New St Andrews House.

Things were not so different when the St James development was conceived, built, and opened amid fanfare in 1973.

Designed for a competition by Ian Burke & Martin in 1964, the plans were not unanimously welcomed and in fact the Cockburn Association led a campaign in opposition to the centre for the nine years it took to build.

The complex was replacing a Georgian Square in the New Town which was originally laid out by James Craig in the late 18th century.

The buildings in the area had deteriorated so much by the 1960s that the decision was taken to send in the bulldozers and redevelop the area – as our pictures showing the work of John Hunter & Sons (Demolition) in 1966 illustrate.

Aerial view of the St James Centre and New St Andrews House in March 1973.

Aerial view of the St James Centre and New St Andrews House in March 1973.

Our main image shows the completed scheme taken from above Calton Hill when, like so many other centres of its kind created across Britain in the 1960s it was a development of which to be proud.

Indeed it received the royal seal of approval when the Queen visited in July, 1975, to open New St Andrew’s House, the modernist new home of the Scottish Office.

She was snapped in front of crowds at the familiar entrance to the shopping centre along with Lord Provost John Miller.

Earlier, she had unveiled a plaque and spoke of how the then 7000 people employed by the Scottish office had a vital role to play – and it “is only right that they should have proper working conditions”.

The demolition of St James Square in 1966

The demolition of St James Square in 1966

Exterior shot of the St James Centre in 1973

Exterior shot of the St James Centre in 1973