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Professor Andrew MacMillan

Architect and Educator

Architect and Educator

Born: December 17, 1928 Died: August 16, 2014

ANDY Macmillan, who has died aged 85, was the last surviving partner of Gillespie Kidd and Coia, the notable modernist Glasgow architectural practice that operated in the middle of the last century, and was also a charismatic and popular professor of architecture and head of school at the Mackintosh School of Architecture in the Glasgow School of Art, which he transformed into one of the leading architectural schools in the world.

He joined Gillespie Kidd and Coia in 1957, having previously worked in the housing department in East Kilbride, and he and Isi Metzstein (who died two years ago) formed a lifelong partnership.

They quickly took over the reins of the practice from Jack Coia, and established a very strong and pioneering modernist architecture, starting with significant church buildings such as St Paul's RC Church in Glenrothes, and St Bride's RC church in East Kilbride.

They also designed a number of schools and some housing, but their ecclesiastical commissions may be best remembered for their design for St Peter's Seminary at Cardross, which sadly became surplus to requirements shortly after completion, and is now a ruin. Their office became more widely known after they built the student halls of residence at the University of Hull, which led to various commissions at Wadham College in Oxford and the winning design for Robinson College in Cambridge, which was completed in 1974 when Mr MacMillan was already installed at The Mackintosh School of Architecture.

The office famously ran an informal open house at the Kings Arms pub in Elderslie Street in Glasgow on Wednesday evenings, at which Mr MacMillan and Mr Metzstein debated architectural design, education, culture and politics with a passion and erudition that surprised many who did not know them.

Mr MacMillan was completely immersed in his love of architecture, and was consequently a very great teacher, happy to share his insights with anyone, and unable to pass a student's drawing board without commenting upon their work and offering advice, demonstrating with an apparently effortless quick sketch an elegant solution to a problem.

He was genuinely interested in everyone who showed the least concern for the subject, but also could discuss issues of architectural philosophy and culture with experts in the field, and was widely respected internationally.

He established contacts with many European architects and schools of architecture, and when he retired in 1994 (although he continued to teach), the work of his best students was seen to be leading the field in an imaginative development of a new urban architecture, based on his love and deep understanding of the city of Glasgow.

He continued to be heavily involved in architectural education, chairing the RIBA Education Committee for 11 years while Vice President: at a time when architectural education was under political threat, he was commended for taking the RIBA into the corridors of power for the first time. He travelled worldwide as a visiting lecturer and external examiner, as well as serving on many different expert panels judging architectural competitions or awards.

He and Mr Metzstein were awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for their work in architecture and architectural education by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland in 2008.

In spite of his very significant importance as an architect and as an academic, Mr MacMillan was a most approachable person, and rarely stood upon his dignity: he remarked that using the title of professor was a barrier to communication. He was widely recognised as a genuine authority on architectural design, lucidly analysing the components of an architectural composition, although he occasionally had to put a presumptuous planner in their place.

He was greatly loved, and his presence alone at a lecture or conference guaranteed a good audience.

His family life was important to him, although they often had to allow his work to take precedence.

He and his wife Angela were extremely hospitable and welcomed anyone at any time to their house in Falcon Terrace in Maryhill, and latterly at their flat in Wilson Street, throwing memorable parties that usually lasted all night.

He was also a very convivial dinner guest, and one could be sure of a good evening when he was present. He enjoyed sailing, and while not a particularly accomplished sailor he was self-deprecating and enjoyed hearing stories of various sailing disasters being told and retold.

He had a small cottage on the Lunga estate on the shore of Loch Melfort, which he referred to as his stone tent (the amenities were fairly primitive), and also loved holidaying in France, where he spent weeks at his son in law's rural cottage.

He was however happiest when looking at good architecture, and it is appropriate, although sad, that he died while doing this. He is survived by his wife Angela and his four children and three grandchildren.

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