Robert Adam moved in the same circles as major figures of the Scottish Enlightenment such as David Hume, Adam Smith and William Robertson.
Scottish Enlightenment philosophers such as David Hume helped to relax the rules of classical aesthetics. An individual's own impressions became more important than the object itself. Appreciation of a work of art or architecture was no longer grounded in pre-defined rules and beauty was now in the eye of the beholder.
During the Scottish Enlightenment, architects like Adam and his brothers began to interpret the works of antiquity in their own style.
In this environment, Adam cultivated the confidence to develop beyond the confines of what it meant to be an architect in the 18th century. He took classical Roman designs and interpreted them with a modern twist, becoming valued for his judgement in taste, elegance and style.
Hume's essay on aesthetics was on display in 'The beautiful spirit of antiquity', at the Library from 16 June to 18 September 2016.