Initially, following his father’s death he started working with his brother John but left in 1760 to take the Grand Tour, the traditional rite of passage for young men of wealthy families.
Architect of the King’s Work
After studying in Rome he joined the family business in 1763. In 1769, he succeeded Robert as Architect of the King’s Work in 1769.
While James is best-known for his partnership with his brother Robert he did design a number of buildings independently including: the Glasgow infirmary, the Tron Kirk and the Assembly Rooms both also in Glasgow.
He published with Robert two volumes of their designs, Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam. A third volume was subsequently published after his death.
The National Library of Scotland described the Works as, “Possibly the most important architectural books of the 18th century.”