Edit Magazine

Landmark: King’s Buildings

Studying in Edinburgh is an unforgettable experience. In each edition we share your memories of an iconic campus or city landmark.

King's Buildings

For a large proportion of Edinburgh students the centre of academic and social life is at the main science and engineering campus whose foundation stone was laid by King George V in 1920. Always changing and always vibrant, the King’s Buildings are the source of fond memories for many alumni, as shown here.

Peter Wood 

BSc Physics and Electronics 1984

I did Physics and Electronics at KB from 1980 to 1984. I was in the James Clerk Maxwell Building and the Engineering department over that time. Great memories.

Peter Wood

I loved listening to Professor Peter Higgs with his tight roll-neck tops talking about quantum physics. Fascinating.

We worked through semi-conductor and LSI [large-scale integration] design in physics, working out the theoretical minimum dimensions of semi-conductor design. Amazing small-scale physics.

We followed that with a visit to the electronic engineering lab where the Wolfson team was in its infancy, to find that physics was a factor of 10 too big compared with reality.

We knew the back route out of JCMB to get to engineering. It saved a huge trek. I’d love to visit again or do a PhD when I get nearer retirement.

The canteen and bookshop at the new union was superb and the squash courts where we played intermural squash in the old Union was great.

Met many friends and kept in touch with many over the years. Great memories. My daughters and son are now at University in Edinburgh, and so was my father before me.

Fiona MacFarlane

Fiona MacFarlane 

BSc Chemical Engineering 1986

The KB Union allowed the Chemical Engineering Society to take over the kitchens in 1985 for our Burns Supper, and the Chemical Engineering students set to peeling the tatties and peeling and chopping the neeps. I’m sure the production process in evidence that day held many of us in good stead when we went on to make chemicals on a large scale. It was a great night!

Angus Wardlaw 

BEng Mechanical Engineering with Management Techniques 2002

Angus Wardlaw

KB was great for lunchtime runs around Blackford and Braidburn. Great breakfast baps in the Union, massive queues for sandwiches at lunch.

In terms of actual studying I will always remember Professor Stephen Salter’s lectures about applying engineering knowledge to solve the world’s great problems, climate change, mine clearing etc.

John Marshall 

BSc Agriculture 1972

John Marshall

The ticket is from some time between between 1968 and 1972. The memory has gone, either because it was such a great night or through ageing, as retirement draws nigh. Mama Flyer – who or what were they?

As an Agriculture student I knocked about with a number of geologists whom I met in the first year. We keep in touch and in 2014 we had a Christmas night out in Edinburgh, which included Colin Brown. He was an “organiser” and the Rock Knockers Hop was probably his doing.

My wife, Rhona Gillies (BSc Geography 1971), whom I met through the geology friends, was also there on that night. We have three children and four grandchildren, and a recently purchased caravan. BSc Agriculture 1972 are having a reunion on 17 October 2015.

Oliver Tandy 

BSc Theoretical Physics 2013

Oliver Tandy

The first thing that comes to mind is all of us staying up late in King’s Buildings trying to finish a 24-hour quantum mechanics assignment.

We ended up having pizza delivered to the James Clerk Maxwell Building while we racked our brains for solutions.

It was brutal in a way, but we at least felt like we were in the struggle together.

Carole Lowther 

BSc Ecological Science (Conservation and Ecological Management) 2009

Carole Lowther

As an ecologist I spent most of my time at King’s Buildings. In fact it was a tour of the campus on a visit day that made me think, yes, this is the place for me. I loved the way it was so unique, much of it ancient (especially the zoology building, still my favourite), so academic. I don’t know why but somehow being a “KB kid” made me feel especially proud. It was our place, away from the bustle of George Square.

My favourite memories include first year “labs” in the Ashworth Labs. I remember feeling like a proper scientist dissecting various creatures. The deer head week was especially memorable.

The labs had a wonderful smell and feel about them that I will never forget. No lab was complete without a visit to Julie’s Cafe in the depths of the Ashworth basement: a plate piled high with nachos and chilli for a steal. Julie always looked after us and we had some great lazy lunchtimes before moving on to the next lecture.

KB House was also a very fond and special place to me. Lounging around between lectures, grabbing a bite to eat, or sometimes indulging in a pint or two (or three) on early-finish Friday. The best bit of KB House was knowing you could walk in and there would always be a friendly face you knew, or on the rare occasions there wasn’t you still felt completely at ease pulling up a pew and watching MTV.

Love, love, love the place and miss it dearly! I will always be proud to be a KB kid.

Enid Cruickshank (nee Haddon)

BSc Zoology 1962

Enid Cruickshank

The Zoology Department was my base. In my time there were always vintage cars parked outside, as several members of staff were car enthusiasts. Michael Swann (later Principal of the University, and then chairman of the BBC) was the Professor and discoveries were being made all the time on DNA and RNA and genetics in general – very exciting.

The first-year lab looked out onto the gardens; daffodils in the springtime were very attractive. In later years we moved to specified labs for the years, upstairs for the final two. We also learned how to develop our photographs for our Honours projects, strictly supervised but quite an achievement when the image was successfully printed and hung up to dry.

We had some amazing lecturers. Avrion Mitchison used to stammer, which was conspicuous at first then totally ignored – a brilliant immunologist. And Ron Kille, who I later discovered had flown gliders into France around D-Day and who founded the University Gliding Club along with my husband in the early 1960s.

Bryn M Jones who later moved to Aberystwyth was my Director of Studies and an amazing man who cared for his students and invited us into his home. Aubrey Manning who later became the face of the BBC’s Earth Story took us through the vertebrate kingdom. Peter Medawar and Charlotte Auerbach on genetics, early developments in artificial intelligence: I’m constantly amazed at the eminence of the lecturers we were privileged to have.

Exciting too for girls then: probably one girl to six or eight lads! So the dances in the KB Common Room were very enjoyable and we were all very popular! Remember it was the height of rock ‘n’ roll, so the place throbbed.


We’d love to hear your memories of King’s Buildings below. For the next edition, we want to share your memories of the McEwan Hall.

Email editor.edit@ed.ac.uk