Basic Biographical Details

Name: Alexander Steele
Designation: Architect
Born: 20 December 1906
Died: 11 July 1980
Bio Notes: Alexander Steele was born in Bo'ness on 20 December 1906, the son of Bo'ness architect Matthew Steele. He attended the School of Architecture at Edinburgh College of Art from October 1921 whilst receiving 'office training', presumably in his father's practice. He was employed by Harold Ogle Tarbolton for three years, and subsequently worked as an assistant to James Bow Dunn. He passed the qualifying exam in June 1928 and was admitted ARIBA early the following year, his proposers being Dunn, Tarbolton and John Begg. At that date he was working in Dunn's office and living in the family home at 'The Quarry', Bo'ness. His travels prior to that date had been confined to Scotland and England.

Steele spent some time working for Nottingham and Cardiff Corporations and by 1950 had moved to work in the Education Department of Birmingham. He returned to Scotland in 1952 to take up the position of Depute City Architect, Alexander Forgie's successor-designate, and was Edinburgh City Architect from 1953 to 1972. He was elected FRIAS in 1956. In the post of City Architect he re-organised the department and built it up in skills as well as number. The Department dealt with a large housing programme which was to peak at nearly 3000 per year. Steele was keen to encourage design talent in the young architects working in his department and always insisted thatb the credit for individual jobs belinged to the architect directly responsible and that he himself was to be judged by the total result achieved in the whole building programme. He encouraged forward thinking. His obituarist, Stuart Harris, noted that 'in his last five years there was a happy coincidence between his personal enthusiasm for sport andf the creation of facilities for the 1970 Commonwealth Games'.

Steele died after a long illness 'courageously borne' on 11 July 1980. He was survived by his second wife and his daughter Jennifer whose mother, Steele's first wife, had died when her daughter was in her early 20s.

Steele presented a paper on 'Trends in House Design' at the annual conference of the Scottish National Housing and Town Planning Council at Peebles on March 15-16, 1957 (see Builder 5 April 1957, p638).

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 3The Quarry, Bo'ness / Borrowstouness, West Lothian, ScotlandPrivate1929 *Before 1928 
Item 2 of 3Corporation Buildings, Parliament Square, High Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness1953 *1955 
Item 3 of 363, Pentland View, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivateBefore 1955 *1980 

* 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 7Bradshaw Gass & Hope  Assistant 
Item 2 of 7Matthew Steelec. 1921(?)Before 1925(?)Apprentice(?)Probably began training in his father's office, but this is not certain
Item 3 of 7Harold Ogle Tarboltonc. 1925(?)c. 1928(?)Apprentice 
Item 4 of 7James Bow Dunn1928 * Assistant 
Item 5 of 7Birmingham Education Department1948 *April 1952Architect 
Item 6 of 7Edinburgh City Architect's Department (Edinburgh Corporation)11 April 1952 *  Senior Depute City Architect for Edinburgh, with salary of 2,000 per year
Item 7 of 7Edinburgh City Architect's Department (Edinburgh Corporation)19551972Chief Architect 

* earliest date known from documented sources.


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3John BeggEarly 1929for Associateship
Item 2 of 3James Bow DunnEarly 1929for Associateship
Item 3 of 3Harold Ogle TarboltonEarly 1929for Associateship

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 1Alexander ('Sandy') MacCallum (or McCallum) Brown17 July 1968For Fellowship

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 4827 November 1953Corporation Housing, Restalrig Avenue Housing Site  EdinburghScotlandScheme of 28 houses
Item 2 of 481954Corporation Housing Scheme, Main DriveColinton EdinburghScotland 
Item 3 of 481954Corporation Housing Scheme, Pirniefield Place and Seafield Avenue  EdinburghScotland 
Item 4 of 482 April 1954Multi-Storey Flats, Comiston Housing SiteComiston EdinburghScotlandApproval given for multi-storey flats
Item 5 of 481955Broomhouse Primary SchoolBroomhouse EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect
Item 6 of 481955Clermiston Housing DevelopmentClermiston EdinburghScotlandScheme of 146 houses
Item 7 of 481956Block of buildings 34 High Street  EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect - recast interior
Item 8 of 481956St Cuthbert's RC High School  EdinburghScotland 
Item 9 of 481957Drumbrae SchoolCorstorphine EdinburghScotland 
Item 10 of 481957Gracemount Secondary School  EdinburghScotlandDesigned in conjunction with Mr Alex Steele, City Architect
Item 11 of 481957Hunter's Tryst Primary SchoolFairmilehead EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect
Item 12 of 481957Primary School at West PiltonWest Pilton EdinburghScotlandper Builder 25 January 1957
Item 13 of 481957Silverknowes Primary SchoolSilverknowes EdinburghScotlandBuilder p209
Item 14 of 4818 January 1957Scheme of maisonettes, shops, garages and flats, Saughton Mains GardensSaughton Mains  EdinburghScotlandBuilder p166
Item 15 of 4825 January 1957Burdiehouse Primary SchoolBurdiehouse EdinburghScotlandBuilder p209
Item 16 of 4825 January 1957Southhouse Primary SchoolSouthhouse EdinburghScotlandBuilder p209
Item 17 of 481 February 1957Clermiston Primary SchoolClermiston EdinburghScotlandBuilder p252
Item 18 of 481 February 1957Protestant Primary School, Drylaw districtDrylaw EdinburghScotlandBuilder p252
Item 19 of 488 February 1957Craighall SchoolTrinity EdinburghScotlandBuilder p293
Item 20 of 488 February 1957Protestant Secondary School  EdinburghScotlandp293 - as City Architect
Item 21 of 488 February 1957Royal High Primary School  EdinburghScotlandBuilder p293
Item 22 of 4812 April 1957112 houses at Comiston housing scheme  EdinburghScotlandper Builder p707
Item 23 of 4814 June 1957Houses, Moat Drive  EdinburghScotlandas City Architect, per Builder p1102
Item 24 of 48Before 1957Multi-storey flats, Spey Street  EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect
Item 25 of 48February 1958(?)Flats, CanongateCanongate EdinburghScotlandas City Architect, per Builder 21 Feb 1958 p378
Item 26 of 482 May 195810 shops at Gracemount Housing Estate  Edinburgh, MidlothianScotlandper Builder p836
Item 27 of 481959Forrester High School  EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect
Item 28 of 481959Lochview Court and Holyrood Court  EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect
Item 29 of 481959Parson's Green Primary SchoolParson's Green EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect
Item 30 of 482 January 1959Cottages erected for elderly people, Loaning RoadRestalrig Edinburgh, MidlothianScotlanddesigned in the office of City Architect per Builder p28
Item 31 of 481961Housing, Capelaw Court, Allermuir Court and Caerketton CourtOxgangs EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect
Item 32 of 481961Muirhouse Old People's HomeMuirhouse Edinburgh, MidlothianScotlandAs City Architect
Item 33 of 4821 April 1961St Leonard's Area Plan (Dumbiedykes)St Leonard's Edinburgh, MidlothianScotlandnew plan prepared by City Architect, A Steele per Builder p780
Item 34 of 481964Development of flats, Dumbiedykes  EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect
Item 35 of 481964Fox Covert RC Primary SchoolCorstorphine EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect
Item 36 of 481964Housing, GreendykesCraigmillar EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect
Item 37 of 481964Leith Citadel and fortificationsLeith EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect - conjectural reconstruction of parapet of citadel.
Item 38 of 481964Two multi-storey blocks of housing, Craigmillar Castle GardensCraigmillar EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect
Item 39 of 481965Davidson's Mains Primary SchoolDavidson's Mains EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect
Item 40 of 481967Gylemuir Primary School  EdinburghScotland 
Item 41 of 481967North Fort Street SchoolLeith EdinburghScotland 
Item 42 of 481968Meadowbank Sports Centre  EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect
Item 43 of 481968Sighthill Primary SchoolSighthill EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect
Item 44 of 481968St Augustine's RC High School  EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect
Item 45 of 481969Greendykes Primary SchoolCraigmillar EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect
Item 46 of 481970Mercat Cross  EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect - replaced shaft
Item 47 of 481972Housing development, Burns Street and Primrose StreetLeith EdinburghScotlandAs City Architect
Item 48 of 481977General Purpose Building for Glaxo LaboratoriesMontrose AngusScotlandFurther laboratories


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 3Gifford, John, McWilliam, Colin and Walker, David M1984Edinburgh (The Buildings of Scotland) Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltdp693
Item 2 of 3Glendinning, Miles1997Rebuilding Scotland: The Postwar Vision, 1945-75  Tuckwell Press Ltdp25
Item 3 of 3RIBA1950The RIBA Kalendar 1950-1951 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 8Builder11 April 1952  p542
Item 2 of 8Builder7 August 1953  p228 - details Steele's imminent appointment as Edinburgh City Architect
Item 3 of 8Builder27 November 1953  p862
Item 4 of 8Builder2 April 1954  p616
Item 5 of 8Builder9 April 1954  p656
Item 6 of 8Builder18 February 1955  p316
Item 7 of 8Builder5 April 1957  p638 - includes photo of Mr. A. Steele
Item 8 of 8Builder6 November 1964  p1010

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2RIAS, Rutland SquareRecords of membership  
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers A no4340 (combined box 8), which includes an appreciation by S Harris, Depute City Architect.