Edinburgh city centre in 1975 looks unrecognisable 50 years on due to major changes

Leith Street 1973
Leith Street 1973 -Credit:Alex Jackson

Edinburgh's landscape has undergone a remarkable transformation over the years, with two images taken 40 years apart highlighting the extent of the change.

The evolution of Leith Street is particularly striking, from the emergence of the St James Centre to the recent tram extension towards Newhaven. Alex Jackson, a former Easter Road local who is now 75, has been captivated by Edinburgh's development and has documented its changes throughout the decades.

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Back in 1975, Leith Street was characterised by expansive open spaces flanked by greenery, which had sprouted up after the demolition of old tenement buildings. The incline to the right was a popular spot for sledging during the snowy months, while at Picardy Place, a public artwork known as the 'kinetic sculpture' stood out.

Leith Street 2011
-Credit:Alex Jackson

Today, those days are long gone, with office blocks and the Omni Centre, constructed in 2002, occupying the area.

In conversation with Edinburgh Live, Alex reminisced: "Looking at various maps and photos, Edinburgh has changed greatly. A whole block of flats at Picardy Place got knocked down. Then there was that kinetic sculpture at the bottom, that really was controversial with all the lights."

The ill-fated kinetic sculpture, erected in 1973, featured an array of neon strip lights that would flicker and shift colours in response to wind direction and speed. This 80ft art piece graced Picardy Place until 1983, having cost a hefty £11,000a figure that inflates to around £100,000 today.

Just a hop, skip and a jump from the now-demolished St James Centre, erected in 1973 and replaced by the swanky St James Quarter over three decades later, Edinburgh's cityscape has seen significant changes.

He reflected: "Over the years, the city has progressed, with the trams coming in, and you can now cycle all the way up Leith Walk. It isn't really built for cars anymore, but there are definitely too many cars in that area, I suppose that springs debate."

He fondly recalled: "The one thing that has remained constant is the Playhouse, which was a cinema when I was growing up on Easter Road. I used to go to the Playhouse cinema. And St Mary's Cathedral, I didn't use it, but it has always been there."

In 2011, Alex captured another moment in time from the 'Bridge to Nowhere', which has since been dismantled, symbolising the ever-evolving face of the capital.

"You can't take a photo from this angle anymore. Both bridges have gone," he lamented, referring to the iconic Bendy Bridge and Bridge to Nowhere.