'The Edinburgh Provincial Training Centre', oil on panel, 2016, 60cm x 76cm
‘Patersons Land’ is a University of Edinburgh building along Holyrood Road originally called ‘The Edinburgh Provincial Training Centre’. It was built at the turn of the 20th Century to train teachers, accommodate rising numbers of pupils and improve training methods. Large parts of Patersons Land are still used to train teachers at the School of Education. A full history of the building can be found at here.
I have worked in this building since 2012 when the University’s continuing education department moved here along with art and design short courses. It is the first time in my working life I have not worked in a building dedicated to art and design education, practice and promotion and, I have got to be honest, Patersons Land is an austere and oppressive environment to work. It’s architecture and spaces don’t really meet today’s needs for open learning with lots of small anonymous rooms buried away in the bowels of the buildings. The Penguin Guide to Edinburgh's architecture describes Paterson's Land as 'a large building, unexciting English Baroque' and I have got agree.
I have spent the odd lunchtime making drawings of its exterior and interior spaces in the hope that something might click. What has become abundantly clear, due to the building being managed by a ‘central booking’ system, is that just about any anyonomous group could be in the building at any time. There is very little on the walls which gives clues who the community is or which celebrate learning – just lists of rooms and timetables.
As an observer, there is just lots of people arriving and leaving. For my painting, I chose a view of the central quadrangle and revealed a whole subterranean network of classrooms where knowledge is transferred from canisters and piped from room to room. I made the painting in the hope that it might make my working environment a little more tolerable…
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