Born in Glasgow in 1928, Michael Laird trained as an architect at Edinburgh College of Art. As a teacher there he inspired a generation of students, later serving the college as a governor. As a broadcaster, he compered bbc Television's weekly Compass programme in the 1950s, and as a campaigner for high standards in design, served on the Council of Industrial Design and contributed numerous articles to the specialist and general press. He was awarded the obe in 1983 for services to architecture, an honour of which he was immensely proud.
In 1954, at the age of 26, he founded the practice which bears his name. He developed his firm with the energy, commitment and magnetic personality which were always his trademark, and the early years produced some exceptional modern buildings: the curtainwalled extension to Standard Life's Edinburgh headquarters (completed 1963), George Watson's Music School (1964), the Children's Unit at the Astley Ainslie Hospital (1965), and Standard Life's St Andrew Square building, for which he won the Royal Scottish Academy's inaugural Gold Medal for Architecture.
The late Ian Rogers became Michael's first Partner in 1965, and with the arrival of Alan Black in 1968 an immensely fruitful design partnership was born. This produced buildings as diverse as the refectory and boiler house at Edinburgh University's King's Buildings campus (1973), the Gore factory at Livingston (1984), and Standard Life's Tanfield House offices (1990). Michael was intimately involved in the design concept for Standard Life's new Edinburgh headquarters, completed in 1996.
He was equally passionate about Scotland's historic buildings, his work in this area exemplified by the restoration and reconstruction of Maxwelton House, the ancestral home of the Laurie family immortalised in Burns' song Annie Laurie. With his customary generosity, he gave a home in his office to the nascent Scottish Georgian Society, now thriving as the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland.
His espousal of causes was legendary, and though his passionate sense of right and wrong did not always accord with the majority view, Michael was never daunted by a consensus ranged against him. Even those closest to him knew what it felt like to have those blazing eyes turned on them, but they also knew the warmth of the reconciliation which would follow when - as so often happened - he turned out to be right.
An early love of flying (he was an accomplished aerobat and led the Edinburgh University Air Squadron in his student days) was cut short by the onset of diabetes in his early twenties. He then sought his thrills in other directions: on the ski slopes of the Parsenn; at sea, sailing in the waters around his beloved Tiree; and in a succession of open cars, which he drove with great skill and considerable verve. His land yachting exploits on the beaches of Tiree are the stuff of local legend, and though an attempt to cross Switzerland in a hydrogen balloon ended in the high branches of a pine forest, it made a good story!
For more than 50 years he fought the effects of his illness, combining the twice-daily misery of blood-sugar tests and insulin injections with a passion for the good things in life which he indulged fully. He was a life-enhancing figure, a man of generous measures in everything he did: in the words of one contemporary, 'when he gave a party, you knew you were at a party'.
Michael steered his practice as an active senior partner until ill-health forced his retirement in 1992. Though he recovered to some degree, the last years of his life were scarred by severe depression. He bore his final illness with customary fortitude, but was ultimately overcome by a medical situation which willpower alone could not conquer. He is survived by his wife Kirsty, a daughter and two sons, and by four young grandchildren.
Michael Donald Laird OBE FCSD FRIAS RIBA 22 March 1928 - 11 March 1999