Comment on: Lighting design pioneer Jonathan Speirs dies
For about four years in the early nineties Jonathan and I shared an office in an old shop in Blair Street Edinburgh. He had about three staff and so did I. We also shared a wonderful and very lively Italian-Scottish secrtetary Iolanda who Jonathan brought with him. It was "early days" for both of us and we enjoyed each others activities, shared each others sucesses and commisserated on any failures, although I don't recall that he had too many of those. He was always immensely charming, delightful company and totally committed to what he was doing. After out-growing Blair Street it never surpised me that he went on to create with Mark and others such an outstanding company. He had ambition and ability in spades. A lovely man.
Comment on: Tributes pour in for Isi Metzstein
Some personal memories of Isi. I first met Isi Metzstein as most do; in a crit. His crits were legendry. He took no prisoners but all the students adored him for it all the more. His analytical powers were razor fast; he could spot the essential weaknesses of a scheme in a few seconds. Later when he hired me as a junior lecturer at Edinburgh University I quickly became his lieutenant. It was a second education for me, the cold douche of the Metzstein discourse that introduced me to the idea that architecture, as he used to argue himself, was an intellectual activity. Buildings have, or should have, their own logic which is why so much current gesture architecture left him cold or bewildered. Later we taught together at Syracuse University and during leisurely breakfasts in the campus diner he began to open up to me the private side of his life and in particular his memories of life in Germany and his evacuation, a subject he rarely wished to discuss. But he always wanted to put the record straight, to counter any myth-making. After setting up my own practice we invited him in on a regular basis with some trepidation for crits on our own work. Timing was everything. If the project wasn’t started he might just design it for you; if it was too far advanced he would point out the faults all the same but which you knew were too late to correct. There were moments, such as when he said in a really loud voice “Muff (his nickname for me), this is the worst building you’ve ever designed” so that everyone in the office could hear! (It never got built). But his influence on me has been massive. Indeed subliminally I find myself standing back, looking at a plan or a section and thinking “what would Isi think?” Every Christmas he and Dany played Santa at our Christmas dinner and he came on a number of trips with us to Verona, Eichstatt, Dublin, etc. Despite increasing immobility he was always the last to bed, and over a Macallan or two discussion became passionate over what we had seen that day. It was just so much fun to have him with us and deepen our insights. While many of his buildings have been treated shamefully, a retrospective exhibition at the Lighthouse and the book by Jonny Roger won his approval. Indeed the exhibition in Glasgow coincided with another on Spence held simultaneously in Edinburgh. In the same period Spence who of course had moved to London had built ten times the number of buildings and yet visiting the two exhibitions by these two giant of Scottish architecture I was left in no doubt as to who was the more original, the more daring and the more profound. His witticisms are many and legendary. After he broke his leg a couple of years ago I went across to Glasgow a few times during a slow recovery. On one occasion he had graduated to a zimmer frame. Dany showed me into the living room. Then the door opened. Slowly in came zimmer followed by Isi and with a look of thunder on his face and in a low slow voice said , “Yes…..half man….half shopping trolley!” Such wonderful memories and such an impossible void to fill. I and many others will miss him terribly. Richard Murphy