Who took part?

Members of the Canongate Youth Project, Edinburgh

What building did we look at?

Canongate social housing, Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Canongate workshop activity
Video (2m:55s)

Final Product

Digital art work


We looked at the theme of ‘new design in historic places’ and explored how Spence designed modern dwellings within an old setting. Participants took part in a range of activities, starting with a treasure hunt at RCAHMS, where they explored old drawings, photographs and illustrations relating to Spence and the Canongate area. They then created their own interpretations of this archive material using a variety of digital film techniques, including photo montage and collage.

"I would like to do this again!"

(member of Canongate Youth Project)

Learning aims

  • To learn more about basic video art techniques including stop frame animation and photomontage
  • To gain an introduction to Spence’s contribution to the architecture of Edinburgh

Learning outcomes

  • Practical understanding of basic photography and video editing techniques
  • Greater awareness and appreciation of their local built environment


1. Exploring archive material relating to the Canongate flats

As a group, the young people involved in the workshop took an interactive tour of the archive housed at RCAHMS, with the help of an RCAHMS staff member. They looked at archive material relating to Spence’s designs for the Canongate flats as well as material on Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile.

"Architecture is interesting!"

(member of Canongate Youth Project)

Participants then walked around the areas shown in the archive photographs, took their own photographs of what the area looks like now and compared them to the archive material.

2. Creating a digital art work

Canongate workshop, April 2006. DP008233

Creating the collage

Participants were introduced to a variety of interactive activities based around the archive material they had looked at in connection with Spence’s housing development on the Royal Mile. Activities included:

  • Creating a collage using copies of archive material to design a new street for Edinburgh
  • Using images from the archive as inspiration for a short drama
  • Drawing a colourful mural inspired by the Royal Mile’s architecture.

All activities were filmed by the participants themselves and the finished piece, incorporating all of the activities that took place over the workshop period, was shown to parents and other Canongate Youth Club members.

The archive material that formed the basis of this workshop was interpreted and used in a number of different creative ways, ensuring that learning took place in a variety of contexts. Participants were also able to develop their creativity and visual awareness through these activities.

Materials & Equipment

  • Laptop computers
  • Scanner
  • Colour printer
  • Tripods
  • Digital cameras
  • Video cameras
  • DV tapes
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Pens and pencils

Further development

Spence was careful to design the flats on the Canongate in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile so that they blended in well with this historic site.

  • How did Spence achieve this? Consider materials, shape etc
  • Can you think of any buildings in your area that have had to fit in with an historic setting? How was this achieved? Has it been successful?