Architect honoured – 70 years after leaving college

HE fled his homeland in the face of Nazi oppression and went on to make a new life in Scotland as an accomplished architect.

German architect Antony Wolffe was presented with the City of Edinburgh Medal for Civic Design in a ceremony at the ECA. Picture: PA
German architect Antony Wolffe was presented with the City of Edinburgh Medal for Civic Design in a ceremony at the ECA. Picture: PA

But despite receiving a ­scholarship to go to Edinburgh College of Art, there was always a shadow over Antony Wolffe’s time as a student.

He came top of his class ­during this final year, but was denied his medal because of ­sensitivity over the Second World War.

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Now, more than 70 years later, he has finally had long-overdue recognition from the art school by being presented with the medal and the staging of a major retrospective of work he created there.

Art school officials tracked down an original City of Edinburgh Design Medal so that a new version could be cast and presented to the 94-year-old, who admitted he thought he would never receive it.

Mr Wolffe said: “I am chuffed. I never thought this would happen. It is wonderful and extraordinary. I’ve lived longer than I ever thought I truly would, so to see this exhibition of my work and to finally receive this medal, it is quite exciting.”

Mr Wolffe had arrived in ­Edinburgh in 1938 but had his studies of architecture and town and planning interrupted by periods of internment in both Quebec and the Isle of Man.

After completing his studies, Mr Wolffe moved into architectural practice, setting up his own business, first in Edinburgh in 1947, then relocating five years later to Gatehouse of Fleet in Dumfries and Galloway, where he also worked as an inspector of historic buildings.

He was awarded an MBE in 1975 for services to architecture and was also made a fellow of the Architectural Heritage ­Society of Scotland, but did not retire until 2012, when he was 92 years old.

The exhibition of his work is drawn from the collections of the Royal Commission on 
the Ancient and Historical ­Monuments of Scotland ­(RCAHMS), which houses his official archives and has had three trainees working on the displays. It has been organised in collaboration with the art ­college’s school of architecture.

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to get a rare insight into 1930s architectural education and quality of the work which won Mr Wolffe his award.

Philip Brooks, one of the RCAHMS trainees, said: “We were fascinated to discover Antony’s wonderful student drawings within the RCAHMS collection, and even more intrigued when we met him and heard his remarkable story in person.

“We were determined to celebrate his work in a pop-up exhibition and we are just so pleased that he has received his student reward at last.”

Edinburgh College of Art said one of Mr Wolffe’s fellow students had been offered his medal instead in 1944, but had turned down the honour in ­protest at the treatment of his classmate.

The Antony Wolffe exhibition runs until Friday at the art school’s Minto House building in Chambers Street.