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Robert Adam Architect

  • Name  : Adam
  • Born  : 1828
  • Died  : 1892
  • Category  : Architects
  • Finest Moment : A synthesis of the best of European design in architecture and interiors.

Born 3 July 1728 in Kirkcaldy, Fife, his father, William Adam, was already Scotland's best known architect. William was master mason to the Board of Ordnance in North Britain, as Scotland was sometimes called following the last Jacobite defeat in 1745. He also had a prosperous construction and contracting company in Kirkcaldy, so that Robert and his elder brother James grew up in a comfortable and cultured family environment.

The family soon moved to Edinburgh, where Robert entered the Edinburgh High School. In 1743 he enrolled at Town's College, now Edinburgh University, but dropped this after two years to go into his father's architectural office. In 1754 he started his grand tour, in company with the Hon Charles Hope (of Hopetoun House). Charles Hope was the Earl of Hopetoun's younger brother. Robert was immensely ambitious, and was quite open in his initial plans for the trip, which included setting out 'to lay in a stock of good acquaintance that may be of use to me hereafter.'

In Florence, however, Adam met a young French architect and draftsman, Charles-Louis Clerisseau, who then accompanied him on the tour as instructor. They went on to Rome, where Adam spent most of his time, soaking up the architecture. He returned to London in 1758 and set up practice.

His father had used a wide range of sources for his designs, and Robert Adam was to further this with his use of a wide range of classical sources. His main influence lay in interior decorations, using plasterwork with neo-classical and Renaissance motifs. Like Mackintosh in the distant future, he designed every detail of a room. This was allied to the work of contemporary French designers. He also used ideas from Sir John Vanbrugh.

An ambitious development by Robert and his brother James was to prove a financial disaster; the Adelphi on the Thames. This was a terrace of 24 grand houses on the river's north bank, but in the end the properties had to be disposed of by lottery. It dented his reputation, and he spent the last ten years working in Scotland, where he left Register House (1774-92), elevation designs for Charlotte Square (1791), and Culzean Castle, in Ayrshire (177-92).

He died on 3 March 1792, in London.

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