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Obituary: Andy MacMillan (1928-2014)

‘Post-war architecture great’ Andy MacMillan has died, aged 85

MacMillan was taken ill while attending the judging for the Doolan Prize on behalf of the RIAS on Saturday (August 16).

MacMillan studied at Glasgow School of Art while working for Glasgow Corporation’s Housing Department and the East Kilbride New Town Development Corporation during the 1950s.

He became head of the Mackintosh School of Architecture in 1973, and remained there until 1994. His teaching at the school with Isi Metzstein, who died two years ago, has been heralded as making the school ‘the best in the world’.

Earlier in his career, he joined the eminent Scottish practice Gillespie Kidd & Coia in 1954, and became a partner of the firm in 1966. Working with Jack Coia and Metzstein, he designed a number of modernist churches, schools, and colleges - including Robinson College in Cambridge (pictured). The team worked on the St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross, widely seen as one of Scotland’s finest post-war buildings.

In 1969, Coia was awarded the RIBA Gold Medal and he said it should be shared between himself, Metzstein and MacMillan in recognition of their combined work.

In 2008, MacMillan was also awarded the RIAS Lifetime Achievement Award and the RIBA Annie Spink Prize for Education, both of which he picked up alongside Metzstein.

MacMillan was also recognised with an OBE in 1992.

Fellow Doolan judge and RIAS president, Iain Connelly, said his contribution to post-war architecture in Scoltand was ‘among the most significant of any architect’.

He said: ‘Andy was a great architect, an educator of international renown and one of the finest human beings it has been my privilege to know. His influence on generations of students at the Mackintosh School of Architecture and in the many other institutions where he taught, was immense.

‘Andy’s contribution to Scotland was among the most significant of any architect in the post World War II era. He will be remembered as someone who lived life to the full, who inspired all those he taught and all those who encountered him, as an individual of enormous talent, tremendous enthusiasm and irrepressible fun. Andy’s legacy is the hugely improved built environment of Scotland wrought by his own hand and those of successive generations of his students. He will forever be missed.’

Alan Dunlop commented: ‘Andy was one of Scotland’s greatest architects but he was also an excellent teacher and communicator. In partnership with Isi, he made the Mackintosh School of Architecture one of the best in the world. He was a highly respected figure, with a global reputation and admired as an architect who had actually built projects of international significance. When I think of great heads of school, it’s always Andy that springs to mind first.’

Director of the Glasgow School of Art, Tom Inns, added: ‘We were saddened to hear the news that Andy MacMillian had passed away. Andy’s association with the GSA spanned more than seven decades from student to head of the Mackintosh School of Architecture and latterly as Emeritus Professor. He was one of the greats of post-war British architecture and his legacy is visible not only in his buildings but in the lives and work of generations of architects whom he taught, challenged and enthused. He was a generous, inspirational man and everyone who met him came away better for having done so.’

MacMillan is survived by his wife Angela, their three daughters, their son and three grandchildren.

Readers' comments (2)

  • chris Dyson

    Andy was a great Architect and an inspiring teacher, a wonderful example of a magnetic personality.

    I had the pleasure of his personal tutorship on my thesis designs for a world university in Istanbul, whilst at the Mac 1987-1989 . It was a privilege to know him and receive his wisdom, mostly extremely critical!, and this early experience has become a great preparation for life in practice. Our field trips took in many of his own buildings in particular the memory of visiting Blackwell’s bookshop in Oxford and St Peters Cardross still lives with me today.

    I learnt my passion and commitment for Architecture through him and his leadership of some of the finest tutors in the land. He was extremely proud of his students and followed them on through their careers, often making trips to London and meeting in the French House Soho for a drink.

    Andy possessed a wicked and great humour; his charm was admired by all who came into contact with him. There is little doubt he will be sorely missed by the profession, institutions and all those who knew him.

    Chris Dyson Architect
    Principal Chris Dyson Architects

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  • Neither Andy nor Isi restricted their help, encouragement and advice to their own students. I will always remember their, (witty) support or their understanding when I explained why I was there and not at a Scottish school such as theirs. Apart from that they were great architects, and the fate of Cardross is a standing disgrace to their memory.

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