Scotlands History\|Scottish Enlightenment

Learn more about Robert Adam

'...reptile artisans who have crawled about and infested this country for many years.’

Robert Adam, on other architects.

The Adam family

Robert Adam (1728–92) and his brother James (1730–94) were important men of the Scottish Enlightenment; they created the Adam style of architecture.

Their father William (1689–1748) and their elder brother John (1721–92) were also key figures in the family enterprise.

In 1732 William had designed Haddo House in the ‘Palladian’ style of Andrea Palladio, a 16th-century Venetian architect and student of Greek and Roman building styles. He also built Inveraray Castle (1746) based on a design by Sir John Vanbrugh, the architect for Blenheim Palace in England.

John funded Robert and James’s Grand Tours through Italy in 1754-8 and 1763-3 which were crucial to the creation of the classical Adam style.

Robert Adam's buildings

Robert’s early work included Dumfries House in Ayrshire, and Fort George near Inverness.

The Adelphi Buildings, Portland Place and Northumberland House in London all show his classical style; as did the New Town of Edinburgh and Register House, Edinburgh University and – above all – Charlotte Square, created in 1791 and his finest townscape.

Culzean Castle, built between 1773 and 1790, famed for its magnificent oval staircase, combines Classical and Gothic styles.

'It is not altogether necessary to exclude the whimsical and the bizarre.’

Robert Adam

  • An image of Robert Adam
  • An image of Pulteney Bridge, Bath
  • An image of Osterley Park mansion house in London
  • A photo looking up at an Adam ceiling with chandelier in the Central Club, London
  • A photo of the Adam ceiling of the rotunda in Register House in Edinburgh

Picture credits:

Portrait of Robert Adam. Attributed to George Willison (c.1770-1774). © National Portrait Gallery, London

Photo of Pultney Bridge, Bath. Taken by Dave Hamster and published on Flickr.

Photo of Osterley Park, London. Taken by Sannse and published on Wikimedia Commons.

Photo of ceiling at the Central Club, London. Taken by MindSpigot and published on Flickr.

Photo of ceiling of the rotunda in Register House, Edinburgh. Taken by yellow book ltd and published on Flickr.

Related links

National Trust for Scotland - Robert Adam

The Architecture of Robert Adam