In response to the shortage of teachers in Scotland in the late 1950s and early 1960s Moray House looked to the possibility of building additional teaching facilities close to existing estate, the result of which was Charteris Land.
During the nineteenth century part of the original open area to the west of St John's Street and north of the South Back was occupied by a number of breweries. These made use of the high quality water from the springs and wells in this part of the Canongate. In 1961 Moray House purchased the property of the Aitchison Brewery. This included buildings at the ends of Playhouse and Old Playhouse Closes as well offices (no. 18 and 19 St John's Street), a tenement (no. 20) and Maltings. The price paid was £50,000.
In 1964 draft plans for a ten storey teaching block were drawn up by the architects, Gordon & Dey, to be built adjacent to the west side of St John Street. However, the Royal Fine Art Commission raised an objection to the planned height of the building. Consequently the building of the finally agreed six storeys wasn't started until December 1966. Subsequent delays arising from industrial disputes meant the facility wasn't handed over until February 1969.
Following advice from the Edinburgh City Archivist this teaching block was named Charteris Land.
Today the building is home to Moray House's departments of Educational Studies and part of Curriculum Research & Development.
A sculptured wall (and a fourth panel) were commissioned from David 'Dusty' Miller, a member of staff at Moray House. These were incorporated along the front of the building.
The sculptured wall was cast in reinforced concrete into expanded polystyrene moulds. The continuous twenty nine hour operation was undertaken by Arnott McLeod, Building Contractors.
The three panels comprising the wall and the fourth panel depict representations of four key concepts.
Panel 1 symbolises 'The Maze', based on the use of the maze by psychologists such as Skinner, Tolman and Hull in experiments on rats to ascertain the power of deduction and memory retention in the learning process.
Panel 2 symbolises 'Growth and Development' - how a form of life starts with a coincidence of two elements and whose eventual shape is determined by external influences.
Panel 3 symbolises the 'Assimilation of Knowledge', where differing units are selected and sorted in a rational way to form an organic retrieval system.
Panel 4 symbolises 'Community', with different forms fitting together symbolising the interdependence of man, woman and child.
David 'Dusty' Miller, 1998
This article was published on Feb 11, 2011