"Mousa to Mackintosh: The Scottishness of Scottish Architecture" by Frank Arneil Walker is a magnificent book that should be considered essential reading - and a lasting reference of value - by anyone with any interest in Scottish Architecture. The book is a heavyweight in every sense of the word. Setting aside its superb production values and imposing physical presence, it is written by one of Scotland's most eminent architectural historians. Frank Arneil Walker has taught at Glasgow School of Art, at the University of Strathclyde where he became Professor, and abroad. His name will be well known to anyone familiar with the Buildings of Scotland and RIAS Architectural Guides series; for he has written some of them.
You get a good sense of the contents of the book from the publisher's description: "The architecture of Scotland exists in many forms. In Mousa to Mackintosh, Frank Arneil Walker examines the recognisable and recurring features evident in Scotland’s buildings across the centuries to build a picture of ‘Scottishness’ in architecture. This chronological history presents an expansive view of architecture in Scotland, from neolithic brochs and classical country houses to baronial tower-houses and modernist New Towns, including the work of renowned architects such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Robert Adam, Basil Spence and Robert Lorimer. Walker considers the relationship between national characteristics and international influences in these structures to ask: what is the 'Scottishness' of Scottish architecture?"
The book's introduction is an outstanding nine-page history of Scotland with particular reference to the built environment written by eminent historian Fiona Watson. It is clearly intended to set what follows in context: and does so very well indeed. In his preface the author sets out the background to the idea of "The Scottishness of Scottish Architecture" and again provides a frame within which the rest of the book can be viewed. The preface also brings you face to face with another great strength of this book: the superb illustrations. Facing the first page of the preface is a full page image split down the middle, with the left half showing half of the ancient Mousa Broch in Shetland and the right half showing half of the modern tower at the National Museum of Scotland. If you wanted a way of showing the echoes that have travelled through Scottish architecture over the past two thousand years then this would be hard to beat. Though the illustrations are excellent, they don't overwhelm the book. This isn't a tome intended to sit on a coffee table: it is intended to be read and thought about.
The first chapter looks at what Scottishness might mean in an architectural sense: and the international influences that play a part in all "national" architecture, wherever it is found. We then move on to a series of chapters arranged chronologically. The subtitles of the chapters are perhaps better indicators than their main titles. We start with "Cave to Cashel" before moving on to "Kildrummy to Drumlanrig", then "Classical Kinross to Castellar Culzean". And so on. Later chapters are subtitled "The Scottish Thirties"; and "From Modern to Post-Modern". The book is concluded nicely in a final chapter entitled "Envoi", and there are then sections on writings on Scottish architecture and a glossary of architectural terms and a list of notes. If you really want to know about Scottish architecture, then look no further.