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Recognition of work by pioneering Scottish architechts

7 March 2007

A study of the work of innovative architects Morris and Steedman has led to four more buildings been given statutory protection by Historic Scotland.

Twelve houses designed by the duo – who in recent years have been increasingly acknowledged as ground-breaking pioneers of post-war architecture in Scotland –were already listed in recognition of their architectural and historic importance.

The newly-listed properties include an East Kilbride house featuring unusual 5 -sided wedge-shaped rooms and a single-storey property with an L-plan layout  in East Lothian.

Dr Deborah Mays, Historic Scotland Head of Listing, said: “Morris and Steedman made a very significant contribution to the development of architecture in Scotland and their highly original, cutting-edge designs have inspired the work of many contemporary architects, not only in this country, but around the world.

“Their radical approach was fuelled by a shared idealism and a desire to rethink the way we live, maximise the practicality and functionality of the home, and emphasise the relationship houses have with the landscape in which they’re set.  

After graduating as architects in Edinburgh in 1955, James Shepherd Morris and Robert Steedman went to the States to study landscape architecture.  Inspired by iconic buildings designed by Le Corbusier, Marcel Breuer and Alvo Aalto, they returned to Scotland to set up their own practice.  

This quickly established a reputation for accomplished and striking modernist design, thanks to a number of commissions – often on very difficult sites with limited budgets - from forward-thinking clients.

Dr Mays added: “Morris and Steedman devised a distinctive, progressive style characterised by an imaginative use of space and a combination of bold, modernist features.  These typically included open-plan living spaces which were the heart of the home, floor to ceiling windows, dramatic interiors with exposed stone and timber panelling and flat roofs.

“Our recent thematic study enabled a comprehensive review of the early work of this unique partnership and an in-depth study of their specialist design techniques, practices and building types.”

Although Morris and Steedman designed a number of large public and commercial commissions, it is for their special contribution to domestic architecture during the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s that their practice is most recognised and owes its well-deserved place as one of the foremost architectural firms in the post-war era.

Notes for Editors

  • James Shepherd Morris (1931 - 2006) and Robert Steedman (b.1929) qualified as architects in 1955 at Edinburgh College of Art. They went on to study under Philip Johnson at the University of Philadelphia where they were influenced by Johnson and the ideals of Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer and Richard Neutra.  They returned to Edinburgh in 1957 to set up their practice and both retired in 2002.  James Morris died in August 2006.

  • Historic Scotland is responsible on behalf of Scottish Ministers for compiling and maintaining Lists of buildings of special architectural or historic interest under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997. To conserve the character of Scotland’s built heritage, listing affords statutory protection, ensuring proper examination of planning applications to demolish, alter or extend listed buildings. For more information on listing visit www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/listing.

  • There are three categories of listings: Category A - of national or international importance, or fine little-altered examples of some particular period, or building type; Category B - of regional or more than local importance, or major examples of some particular period, style of building type which may have been altered. Category C (S)  - of local importance, lesser examples of any period, style or building type, as originally constructed or moderately altered; and traditional buildings which group well with others in categories A and B or are part of a planned group such as an estate or industrial complex.

  • There are around 46,600 listed buildings in Scotland and more than 150 post-war structures are listed.  The earliest post-war listings include the David Marshall Lodge, Aberfoyle (designed in 1958 by James Shearers), and the Spean Bridge Commando Memorial (designed in 1951 by Scott Sutherland). The ‘youngest’ post-war building to be protected is the former Cummins diesel factory at Shotts (now Centrelink 5)  which was designed by Ahrends Burton and Koralek, with Ove Arup and Partners (1975-83.)

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Executive charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

For further information


Lesley Brown
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603 or 07788 923873
lesley.brown@scotland.gsi.gov.uk