Capturing the Concept: The Sketchbooks of Sir Nicholas Grimshaw

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Jan 26, 2010 / 0 comments

The Sketchbooks of Sir Nicholas Grimshaw CBE PRA from 1982 - 2007
Monday 1 – Friday 12 March 2010
Sculpture Court, Edinburgh College of Art, Lauriston Place
Admission Free

Edinburgh College of Art and the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA) are delighted to present an exhibition of sketchbooks by its alumnus, architect and President of the Royal Academy of Arts Sir Nicholas Grimshaw. The exhibition will offer a rare opportunity to view initial and conceptual sketches by a leading architect.

Throughout his career, Sir Nicholas has developed his ideas and concepts in a series of A4 sketchbooks, revealing a particularly systematic approach to architectural design. The sketchbooks contain drawings usually hidden from public view once the process of commissioning and construction are underway. Ambitious and complex projects that subsequently employed high tech processes all started in a humble sketchbook, hand drawn with a pen.
The exhibition will contain 62 A4 sketchbooks dating from 1982 to 2007, housed in bespoke display cases. These books and an accompanying film will reveal the importance of drawing in the development of Sir Nicholas’s ideas, while photographs and architectural models of realised projects will allow visitors to relate the sketches to completed buildings. The projects on display will include some of Sir Nicholas Grimshaw’s best known and major projects including the Eden Project, Cornwall, International Terminal at Waterloo Station, London and the Financial Times Print Works, London. Recent projects on display will include the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, Troy, New York State.

On his studies at Edinburgh College of Art, Sir Nicholas said: ‘I remember my time at the Edinburgh College of Art with great affection and found the course rigorous and wide-ranging. I learned a lot about structures and construction details. I was taught to weld and took part in life drawing classes.  I was speaking to a recent graduate working in my office the other day and was glad to hear that nothing much had changed!

‘I am sure that these sketchbooks hark back to the structure and detail that was the bedrock of my education at Edinburgh.’

Sir Nicholas Grimshaw studied at Edinburgh College of Art from 1959 to 1962 before winning a scholarship to attend the Architectural Association School of Architecture, from where he graduated with Honours in 1965. He immediately started his own practice and won many architectural awards for his buildings in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1980 Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners Ltd was formed continuing this tradition. The practice is now internationally recognised as GRIMSHAW and operates from offices in London, New York and Melbourne, with over 100 design awards to its name.

Sir Nicholas was elected a Royal Academician in 1994 and in the same year he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. He was knighted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2002 and in December 2004 was elected President of the Royal Academy of Arts. In 2004 he was also made a Doctor of Letters at Edinburgh College of Art and in 2008 he was conferred as Visiting Professor at the University of the Arts London.

CAPTURING THE CONCEPT: The Sketchbooks of Sir Nicholas Grimshaw marks the first stage in the gift of Sir Nicholas’ sketchbooks to the Royal Academy of Arts’ collection. Originated by The Centre for Drawing at the University of the Arts, London, in collaboration with Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, Royal Academy of Arts, Grimshaw and Wimbledon Space, the exhibition opened at Wimbledon Space in September 2009 and has since toured to the Royal Academy. Following its run at Edinburgh College of Art, the exhibition continues to The Burton Art Gallery & Museum, Bideford, Devon (29 MAY – 2 July 2010).

To accompany the exhibition, the Royal Academy of Arts has published a catalogue entitled The Sketchbooks of Nicholas Grimshaw. The book is fully illustrated and contains essays by Stephen Farthing RA and Peter Davey. Priced £16.95, the book is available from 

Public Lecture
Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, ESALA Lecture as Visiting Alumnus
Date: Monday 1 March 2010, 5pm-6pm
Venue: Main Lecture Theatre, Edinburgh College of Art

For more information, please see

•    Edinburgh College of Art has an international reputation as one of the most successful independent art colleges in the UK, as well as statistically being one of the most popular. Founded in 1907, but with a history dating back to the 18th century, the College is now home to over 1,700 full-time students studying a range of programmes across art and design, architecture and landscape architecture at undergraduate, postgraduate and research degree level. The College is an academic partner of the University of Edinburgh. 

•    The Edinburgh School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture (ESALA) is a joint school of the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh College of Art. It formally commenced in August 2009 under the auspices of a wider academic federation between the two institutions.

•    Launched in February 2008, The Centre for Drawing is a Research Centre of the University of the Arts London (UAL) and embraces drawing in all subjects and disciplines associated to the  disciplinary expertise of the UAL and beyond.  The Centre for Drawing UAL aims to provide a focus for research into the investigative and generative languages of drawing; the material procedures of drawing as a tool for the realisation of ideas; and the critical and conceptual apparatus of drawing.

All information courtesy of Edinburgh College of Art.