Opened in 1913, the Sculpture Court was conceived and designed to be the home of the Edinburgh Cast Collection, the second oldest of its kind in the UK and part of the University’s Art Collections. The casts were inherited from the historical predecessors to the ECA we know today, The Trustees Drawing Academy and later the Royal Scottish Academy. It was compiled across Europe as a teaching tool, intending to school drawing pupils in anatomy and composition. It was also donated on the condition that it be on display and open to the public at least once a week. The architectural solution, and inspired by the The École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, was the neo-classical pillars and archways, upper galleries, and high glass ceiling of the Sculpture Court. The Cast Collection is still used by students across a range of programmes today, and its history contributed to our understanding of the role of Edinburgh during the late Enlightenment and as the “Athens of the North”.
Among the countless uses of the Sculpture Court have been: “Strategy: Get Arts”, a 1970 exhibition celebrating 36 artists from Düsseldorf); half a century of graduation ceremonies, famed for being interrupted by pranks (including an exploding cake in 1966); fundraising events during the war years and a reunion ball to welcome staff and students back after the First World War; Krijn de Koning’s “Land” exhibition, which transformed the space through a series of platforms encasing parts of the cast collection; the closing party of the Edinburgh International Film Festival; and an annual collaborative exhibition with students from Royal College of Art.