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Tributes pour in for Scottish architect Andy MacMillan

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Tributes have poured in for academic and architect Andy MacMillan, who died at the weekend aged 85

Neil Baxter, secretary, RIAS

‘There will be architects the length and breadth of Scotland and well beyond who will be very saddened at the news that the great flame that was Andy’s enthusiasm and joyous embrace of architecture and life has been extinguished.

‘He seemed irrepressible and I’m sure everybody – despite every rule to the contrary – thought he would keep going on. His death was very sudden and at 85 – when you are effectively dying on the job – being in the bosom of his family and with people who admired him he was in the best of company.

‘Andy had so much influence on so many people and not just the people he directly taught – obviously they will be among the most hurt and saddened today. There will be hundreds whose lives have been affected. He single-handedly wrote the syllabus for the Dublin school so his influence as an educator is an enormous and on a world-scale. He also taught in South America and at Yale so his influence was well beyond Glasgow and little Scotland.

‘Andy was one of the first people I spoke to after I had heard about the Glasgow School of Art fire and he was very clear that what had to happen after the fire was a faithful restoration and there was no good in doing anything else.

‘The loss is enormous that alongside the appalling damage to the school we have lost one of the people who was most clearly associated with it, whose knowledge of Mackintosh and of the school itself was among the greatest in the world.’

Clare and Sandy Wright, Wright & Wright

‘Andy MacMillan was a very great friend and a brilliant architect of exceptional range who combined an immense visceral talent with an exceptional intellect. He made things happen, not only because of his talent, or his extraordinary energy, enthusiasm, erudition and charisma but also because he was a practical pragmatist, at ease talking strategy one minute and detail the next. As the perfect partner to Isi Metzstein, Andy built some of the very best post war UK buildings which influence our work even today.

He turned the Mac into a school of international importance

‘His effect on architectural education is however his greater legacy. He turned the Mac into a school of international importance where we, and the generations that followed, were taught how to draw, how to build beautifully and to think about both the social values and the symbolism of architecture.

‘We are so glad to have been in his sphere: as teacher, employer, mentor, friend, party giver and raconteur. He lived life fully and it is fitting that he died with his boots on, working till the very end.’

Tony Chapman, RIBA

‘Professor Andrew MacMillan formed half of one of the most formidable double-acts in architecture with Professor Isi Metzstein. Isi and Andy, as they are universally known, met when they enrolled at the Glasgow School of Art in 1945 when Andy was just 16, Isi 17. They became friends, colleagues and partners – for life. As students they were to be found every Wednesday night in the King’s Arms on Elmbank Street, leading a lively discussion on architecture, culture and politics.

‘In his writing and his broadcasting Andy embodied creativity, wit and irresistible spirit. He wrote on urban design, design method, architectural education, Glaswegian and Scottish Architecture and on Charles Rennie Macintosh. He was also the author and presenter of the series Six Scottish Burghs for Scottish Television demonstrating his easy erudition, charm and impish humour.

‘The contribution of Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein as practitioners is as enormous as it is under-valued. They joined the celebrated firm of Gillespie, Kidd & Coia in 1954 becoming its lead designers and accumulating a body of work, beginning with the church of St Paul at Glenrothes in 1957 when they were 28 years old. Between 1957 and 1966 they designed the Bellshill Maternity Hospital and Nurses Home, and schools in Cumbernauld, Simshill, Langside, Pollock and Glasgow. The buildings that made them famous were a sequence of Catholic churches that includes St Mary of the Angels, Falkirk; St Joseph’s Church, Duntocher; St Brides, East Kilbride; St Patrick’s, Kilsyth; St Benedicts, Easterhouse; and Our Lady of Good Counsel, Glasgow, culminating in 1966 with St Peter’s Seminary at Cardross. The quality of this work was recognised by the Royal Institute of British Architects and by the Civic Society when St Brides received medals from both in 1963, as did Our Lady of Good Counsel in 1966. The major breakthrough came with Cardross – awarded the RIBA Regional Medal in 1967. Forty years on, in 2007, although a building long since vacant and derelict, it was voted Scotland’s most Important Modern Building in the magazine Prospect.

‘With the death of Isi Metzstein in January 2012 and now that of Andy, European architecture has been robbed of a pair of its finest thinkers, teachers and practitioners. Like Isi, Andy was a wonderful explainer and interpreter of architecture, not only to architects but well beyond the architectural elite.’

Chris Dyson, Chris Dyson Architects

‘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 in 1987-1989. It was a privilege to know him and receive his wisdom - mostly extremely critical. 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 Peter’s 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.’

Karen Pickering, head of creative workspace, Page\Park

‘Andy made such a difference to my career and life. I applied to the Mac to study for my diploma and was lucky to be interviewed by Andy and offered a place at the school. Without that I wouldn’t have moved to Glasgow, met my partner Colin, or worked for Page\Park. He was such a colourful character in the profession and he will be greatly missed.’

John Allan, consultant, Avanti Architects

‘Andy was a great friend of the practice and we’re all deeply saddened by his death. Many Avantians over the years have been ex-Mac students and he was hugely supportive of our rescue mission at St Peter’s, Cardross. He was the life and soul of Scottish architecture and will be greatly missed.’

Charlie Sutherland, director, Sutherland Hussey Architects

‘Andy was not only a significant figure in our architectural education as our professor and mentor but his role latterly as the judge and conscience of architecture in Scotland reflected the respect with which he was regarded by many generations of architects.

‘He was our good friend and inspired us both through the phenomenal legacy of his and Isi Metzstein’s work and also through his playful and mischievous spirit, he will be deeply missed.’

Richard Murphy, Richard Murphy Architects

‘He was the ultimate Glaswegian. He was the epitome of Glasgow every time you met him and he was very good at running a very good school. I’m very sad to hear the news and it seems to be a whole generation of architects that is passing.’

Murray Kerr, Denizen Works

‘Andy had just retired when I started studying at the Mac. But I was looking forward to meeting him on Saturday. He was supposed to see our Tiree house for the Doolan Prize judging. It’s a real shame when anyone dies, particularly someone who was a hero to so many people. It was awful. I’ve been really looking forward to showing him the house.

‘I’m sure everyone will be very sad about Andy going - it’s a big blow. I know his family has asked rather than flowers people donate to help renovate the church he designed with Isi Metzstein at East Kilbride.’

Brian McGinlay, NORD

‘I was never personally taught by Andy but being an architect in Glasgow we were very aware of Andy MacMillan’s and Isi Metzstein’s work at Gillespie Kidd and Coia. The practice was very craft-based which is something we held closely to our own work. What they did is something we followed quite closely.

‘I was fortunate enough to meet Andy when they visited our Wasps building for the Doolan Prize judging. We took him around and it was really nice to hear him comment on the subtlety of the building. He was quite a significant figure in the Scottish scene.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Andy MacMillian was the heart of the Mac and had a sense of humour and reality I will never forget. He wrote a very honest and touching letter of support for our project in Argyll and Bute this year. I felt honored he approved and wanted to write to me.

    A true legend in ever respect, he leaves an extraordinary memory to anyone who has experienced his architecture.

    Roz Barr
    Roz Barr Architects

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