The city authorities, mindful of the continuing population growth and of Edinburgh's growing international importance as a seat of learning, embarked upon a visionary expansion to the north. A whole 'New Town' would be created, to offer the emerging middle classes a modern, tasteful residential area. From 1766 this ambitious scheme was taken forward, based upon the design of young architect James Craig, whose grid pattern exemplified the contemporary love for order and formal regularity.
The buildings of the New Town reflected the Georgian love of classical antiquity. Architects looked to the masterpieces of ancient Greece and Rome for inspiration. Robert Adam toured Europe to see the grand buildings of antiquity first hand. Adam's designs for the central dome of Register House and his buildings in Charlotte Square are world-renowned. The classical Doric, Ionic and Corinthian pillars of Edinburgh earned the city the title 'the Athens of the North'.