Edinburgh Local

Object(s) of the Month: Ashworth Building Reliefs

Did you know that the University has several pieces of public art across our campuses?

This beaver and kangaroo both belong to the Ashworth Building Sculptural Reliefs, one of the King's Buildings campus’ oldest artistic features.  Commissioned as part of the construction of the building in 1927 by architects Sir Robert Lorimer and John F. Matthew, the artwork was inspired by the building’s users -  the Department of Zoology.


Artist Phyllis Bone modelled each oval panels in clay before casting them in stone. Bone was a renowned 20th century animal sculptor. After having studied at Edinburgh College of Art under Alexander Carrick, she studied under Édouard Navellier in Paris – a French sculptor known for his bronze sculptures of animals.

Bone was one of many sculptors who contributed work to the National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle and she was the first woman to be elected a full member of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1940.

The work consists fourteen animal reliefs and grouped them by the principal zoogeographical regions at the time. You can view them all online here.


The Palearctic region is represented by the reindeer, golden eagle and polar bear; the Neararctic region by the beaver and bison; the Ethiopian region by the aardvark, the chimpanzee and lion; the Oriental region by the Indian elephant, rhinoceros and tiger; and Australia, New Zealand and South America by the kangaroo, lizard and armadillo.

Nine smaller reliefs of a dung beetle, octopus and crab under the building’s eaves represent invertebrates species.

Kings Buildings are celebrating their centennial year from 6th of July 2020- June 2021. Find more information here.