Basic Biographical Details

Name: Edinburgh University Housing Research Unit (HRU) / Architecture Research Unit (ARU)
Designation: Architectural Department (New Towns etc)
Born: April 1959
Bio Notes: The Housing Research Unit (renamed Architecture Research Unit in 1965) was set up within the University of Edinburgh in 1959 under the direction of Professor Robert H. Matthew with a staff of four architects, one quantity surveyor, one sociologist and three research assistants. It was initially funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the Carnegie Trust, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and Edinburgh University. Robert Matthew appointed the first director, Dr Frederic (Eric) Robert Stevenson, a senior DHS Regional Planning Officer, in 1959.

The HRU was closely related to the Department of Architecture (to which it had a teaching responsibility) and was a member of the School of the Built Environment. The other members were the Departments of Architecture, Urban Design and Regional Planning, Civil Engineering and Building Science, and Geography.

The research unit was founded on the concept of the observation and analysis of user response as an aid to better housing design. This objective was deeply rooted in the Modernist approach to architecture in which the 'user' was of central importance and constituted the linchpin of a circular process of research, design and feedback. Although research took place in Scotland, it was hoped that the results would have universal application. The work of the unit developed from the first study (Prestonpans) into a deeper concern with layout problems - the spaces around buildings - rather than the detailed design of the house itself. Later studies concentrated on the importance of ownership, management and maintenance influences on design and the influence of design decisions on ownership and management.

In 1961, due to tensions within the unit, Stevenson left the post of director and was replaced by Percy Johnson-Marshall, whose task it was to act as director until he found a replacement. Percy appointed Charles Robertson, formerly of Basil Spence & Partners, as director in 1962. With its initial five-year funding package coming to an end, the HRU was increasingly short of money, despite its rent-free accommodation, and had to look for work where it could. From this point, a succession of ‘live’ commissions, mostly low-rise and medium-rise high-density housing projects, were secured, some of which were in London.

In 1965, the name was changed from Housing to Architecture Research Unit (ARU), and the work of the unit expanded to include laboratory design with a particular interest in the integration of services and structure, adjustable and moveable furniture, and dimensional co-ordination.

In 1972, the position of director was taken over by former RMJM assistant architect Andrew Gilmour, and the staff of ARU had expanded to include 12 architects, as well as quantity surveyors, sociologists, computer programmers, architectural technicians and other support staff. At this time, computer graphics represented the unit's biggest interest in production studies in housing. The work subsequently increased by the attraction of new research contracts and an independent unit was established.

During its course of operation, the HRU/ARU published numerous research reports on topics including: Privacy and Courtyard Housing (Aug 1968); Dimensional Co-ordination (Aug 1968); Low Rise High Density Housing Study (June 1970); Aspects of Traffic Separated Housing Layouts (June 1970); London Borough of Lambeth: Flaxman Road (1966), Rehabilitation Case Study, Niddrie Mill, Edinburgh (1968); Assessment of Precast Structure (1969); Application of Computer Graphics to Architectural Practice (1969); Structural Assemblies for Hospital Buildings (1969).

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architectural department (new towns etc):
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 1Edinburgh, Scotland    

Employment and Training

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architectural department (new towns etc) (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 19J A GrayOctober 1959  appointed Research Assistant under the direction of Robert Matthew per Builder 26 Feb 1960 p411
Item 2 of 19A ZammitOctober 1959  appointed Research Student under direction of Robert Matthew per Builder 26 Feb 1960 p411; sent to unit by Maltese Government to train in housing research
Item 3 of 19N DunhillOctober 1959  appointed as Sociologist under direction of Robert Matthew per Builder 26 Feb 1960 p411
Item 4 of 19A W WinkleOctober 1959  appointed QS under direction of Robert Matthew; appointment by arrangement with BRS, the sponsors of the unit's QS workper Builder 26 Feb 1960 p411
Item 5 of 19A C PatersonOctober 1959  appointed Technical Assistant under direction of Robert Matthew; previously joiner at MoW, will be in charge of the model workshop, photographic darkroom and trade literature per Builder 26 Feb 1960 p411
Item 6 of 19Robert Hogg MatthewOctober 1959 Director 
Item 7 of 19Michael John Boucicault de Suffield CalthropOctober 1959  appointed Research Assistant under direction of Robert Matthew per Builder 26 Feb 1960 p411
Item 8 of 19Harold Roland WedgwoodOctober 1959  Senior Research Assistant under direction of Robert Matthew per Builder 26 Feb 1960 p411
Item 9 of 19(Dr) Frederic ('Eric') Robert Stevenson October 1959Late 1961Directorappointed Director by Robert Matthew
Item 10 of 19Percy Edwin Alan Johnson-Marshall19611962 or 1964DirectorStood in as Director until he found a replacement for Eric Stevenson (Prof Charles Robertson)
Item 11 of 19(Professor) Charles Calthorpe Robertson19621972DirectorDepute Director in 1962 and Director from 1963
Item 12 of 19Thomas Henney19631976Architect 
Item 13 of 19Robert Angus1966(?)Architectunder Professor Robert Matthew, Department of Architecture
Item 14 of 19John Burnet Byrom1966 Architectunder Sir Robert Matthew, Architecture Department
Item 15 of 19Ingolfur Helgason19701972  
Item 16 of 19Reginald William Longc. 1970 Architect 
Item 17 of 19Andrew Gilmour1972 Director 
Item 18 of 19Norman Grant Raitt1975 * Architect 
Item 19 of 19William Wilkie1975 * Architect 

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Buildings and Designs

This architectural department (new towns etc) was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 2119588 George Square  EdinburghScotlandWith Nuttgens.
Item 2 of 211960sBuilding Research StationEast Kilbride LanarkshireScotland 
Item 3 of 211960sKirkcudbright Railway StationKirkcudbright KirkcudbrightshireScotlandRedevelopment as 50 dwellings
Item 4 of 211960sMulti-storey housing, Little Green Lanes and Court Lane, Sutton ColdfieldSutton Coldfield Birmingham, West MidlandsEngland 
Item 5 of 211960Park 3 West Housing (West View)Cumbernauld LanarkshireScotlandunder Professor Robert Matthew Department of Architecture
Item 6 of 211960Semi-rural housing experiment, Cuthill, PrestonpansCuthill, Prestonpans East LothianScotland 
Item 7 of 211965Flats, Ellor Street Redevelopment, PendletonSalford Greater ManchesterEngland 
Item 8 of 2118 March 1966Camping & Caravan Site, GlencoeGlencoe Inverness-shire under Professor Robert Matthew Department of Architecture
Item 9 of 21c. 1967Road Research Laboratory, CraigshillLivingston West LothianScotland 
Item 10 of 211968Mid-rise housing, Peacock Street  SunderlandEngland 
Item 11 of 21April 1968University of Edinburgh, King's Buildings, Department of ZoologyMayfield EdinburghScotlandLaboratory for Department of Zoology - as Director of ARU
Item 12 of 211969FlatsSalford LancashireEngland 
Item 13 of 211969Flats and courtyard housesCumbernauld LanarkshireScotland 
Item 14 of 21Late 1960s or early 1970sJuniper Street housingTower Hamlets LondonEngland 
Item 15 of 211970Laboratory for BRS (British Road Services?)East Kilbride LanarkshireScotland 
Item 16 of 211970St Mary's Street housingKirkcudbright KirkcudbrightshireScotland 
Item 17 of 211971Flats for the City of SalfordSalford LancashireEngland 
Item 18 of 211973Housing for Kirkcudbright Town CouncilKirkcudbright KirkcudbrighthsireScotland 
Item 19 of 211973Laboratory building for the MRC  EdinburghScotland 
Item 20 of 211973Laboratory for DOEEast Craigs EdinburghScotland 
Item 21 of 211973Mid-rise housing, Flaxman RoadLambeth LondonEngland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architectural department (new towns etc):
Item 1 of 2Glendinning, M, MacInnes, R and MacKechnie, A1996A History of Scottish Architecture  p566
Item 2 of 2Glendinning, Miles2008Modern architect: the life and times of Robert Matthew RIBA Publishingpp227, 230-1, 252, 305, 307

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architectural department (new towns etc):
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 3Builder26 February 1960  'Edinburgh University Housing Research Unit: Appointments to Staff Announced' p411; article describes the research programme in detail
Item 2 of 3Building18 March 1966  p183
Item 3 of 3Building21 April 1967  p103

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architectural department (new towns etc):
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1Professor Charles Robertson's CVInformation sent from Professor Charles Robertson to Yvonne Hillyard, October 2010