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Building Scotland, Building Solidarity: A Scottish Architect's Knowledge of Nation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 October 2018

Leo Coleman
Anthropology, Hunter College
E-mail address:


This article examines the work of Robert Hurd (1905–1963), a Scottish nationalist architect, planner, and admirer of Scottish civic traditions, in order to query and enrich current anthropological approaches to “material politics” with their focus on material assemblies, infrastructures, and interactions that operate across scales and beyond discourse. Hurd was both an expert and planner and also an “artisan of nationalism” who sought to restore Scotland's built environment as at once a civic heritage and a material resource for a future of independence and self-determination. Hurd's attention to distinctively Scottish architectural forms and to historic centers and their development over time is significant as an idiom of nationalist thought, while his architectural work highlights the formal manipulation of scale and centrality to express political aspirations. He was an expert not only of infrastructure, plans, or populations and their needs, but also of the mediation of such material facts into architectural form and, in a broader sense, forms of life. Finally, Hurd's writing on “burgh” civic and architectural traditions, and his work as a conservation architect, together allow a better understanding of the role played by a conservative, tradition-minded modernism, and of narratives of tradition and national evolution, in the twentieth-century history and present development of Scotland's national and constitutional politics.

Architectural Politics
Copyright © Society for the Comparative Study of Society and History 2018 

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