Basic Biographical Details

Name: Alan Keith Robertson
Designation: Architect
Born: 11 December 1881
Died: May 1925
Bio Notes: Alan Keith Robertson was born on 11 December 1881, the son of Walter Wood Robertson, the Office of Works' principal architect and surveyor in Scotland, and his wife Alice Nesbit Alcorne. About 1897 he was articled to Hippolyte Jean Blanc, a former colleague of his father's at the Office of Works, and remained with him for two-and-a-half years as an assistant, during which period he studied at the School of Applied Art where he won several prizes. He spent his holidays travelling in Belgium, Holland and England. When his father retired from the Office of Works in 1904 to become consulting architect to the Scottish Education Department and took an office in the Peddies' building at 122 George Street, Alan Robertson left Blanc to join him; and when his father died in 1907 he retained the Scottish Education Department appointment which brought him the commission for Moray House and the associated campus of halls of residence at Suffolk Road.

In 1910 Robertson took on as his assistant Thomas Aikman Swan. Swan was two years younger, born on 24 December 1883 and educated at George Heriot's. He had been articled to Thomas Duncan Rhind of Hamilton Paterson & Rhind from 1900 to 1906; during that time he studied at the Edinburgh School of Applied Art, where he gained the Scottish National Art Survey Award in 1905 and the travelling scholarship for study in Italy in 1906. He had subsequently worked as an assistant in Robert Lorimer's office from 1906 to 1910, the year in which he passed the qualifying exam, his proposers being Lorimer, Hippolyte Jean Blanc and Francis William Deas.

Swan was taken into partnership in 1912. He appears to have had a considerable design role in the partnership as the fašade of Moray House had points in common with the Arts Building at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, designed in the same year by Lorimer's former assistant Percy Erskine Nobbs while the architecture of the Suffolk Halls campus was pure Lorimer.

The partnership did not long survive the First World War. Robertson did not seek a commission, preferring to serve in the line. He was severely wounded, recommencing practice in very poor health in 1917. Swan was commissioned, served in France and ended his service as a Major, thereafter being generally known as Major Aikman Swan. The partnership was resumed in 1919 but Swan withdrew in 1921, partly because of Robertson's chronic ill health, and partly because he is said to have thought it inappropriate to have a non-commissioned ex-serviceman as senior partner; but it was probably also because Swan was undertaking most of the work and had won first premiums in the competitions for four Edinburgh housing schemes, only one of which actually came his way.

When the partnership was dissolved Robertson retained the Scottish Education Department appointment and took on as his assistant Frank Wood, then completing his studies with Sir George Washington Browne and John Begg at Edinburgh College of Art. Robertson died of war wounds in May 1925, his practice being taken over by Wood who completed the Moredun Research Institute in 1925-27 and largely redesigned and built the Demonstration School at Moray House. During the Second World War Wood closed the practice and joined the staff of the Scottish Office, working mainly for the Scottish Education Department

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 3122, George Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness1904Before 1911 
Item 2 of 329, Hanover Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness1911 *  
Item 3 of 342, Wardie Road, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1911 *  

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 4Hippolyte Jean Blancc. 1897c. 1902Apprentice 
Item 2 of 4Hippolyte Jean Blancc. 19021904AssistantRemained as assistant for two and a half years
Item 3 of 4Robertson & Son19041907Partner 
Item 4 of 4Robertson & Swan19121921Partner 

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 4Thomas Aikman SwanLate 19101912Assistant 
Item 2 of 4Robert McDowall Symonds19111913AssistantWithin this period of time.
Item 3 of 4Frank Wood19231925Chief Assistant 
Item 4 of 4Thomas Newhall Duncan19261927Assistant 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 1James Bow Dunn17 March 1911for Licentiateship - as president of the Edinburgh Architectural Association

Buildings and Designs

This architect 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 131898Bangour Village AsylumUphall West LothianScotlandAsylum - as assistant to Hippolyte Jean Blanc
Item 2 of 131901Carnegie Public Baths and gymnasiumDunfermline FifeScotlandAs assistant to Hippolyte Jean Blanc
Item 3 of 13After 1903Moray House  EdinburghScotlandAlterations (building in use as school)
Item 4 of 131906Garage for Western Motor Company  GlasgowScotland 
Item 5 of 13After 1907Johnston Terrace College  EdinburghScotlandAlterations
Item 6 of 131910Moray House Training College  EdinburghScotland 
Item 7 of 131911Garage for Western Motor Company  GlasgowScotlandAddition
Item 8 of 131914Suffolk Road Halls of Residence, Moray House  EdinburghScotland 
Item 9 of 131917School hostelPortreeSkyeInverness-shireScotland 
Item 10 of 131917School hostelStornowayLewisRoss and CromartyScotlandDesign
Item 11 of 131920TorduffColinton EdinburghScotlandAlterations
Item 12 of 131924Moredun Research Institute  EdinburghScotland 
Item 13 of 131924St Serf's Church and hallGoldenacre EdinburghScotlandSingle storey extension containing session house, kitchens etc


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 1British Architectural Library, RIBA2001Directory of British Architects 1834-1914   

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1Builder22 May 1925v128 p815 - obituary

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Personal information from Frank Wood
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers L v23 no1809