Scotsman Obituaries: Andrew Merrylees, architect behind some of Scotland’s most recognisable buildings

Andrew Merrylees designed some of Scotland’s most recognisable buildingsAndrew Merrylees designed some of Scotland’s most recognisable buildings
Andrew Merrylees designed some of Scotland’s most recognisable buildings
Andrew Merrylees, architect and artist. Born: 13 October 1933 in Newmains, Lanarkshire. Died: 10 January 2024, aged 90

Renowned Scottish architect, artist and designer Professor Andrew Merrylees, who was responsible for designing some of Scotland’s most recognisable buildings of the late 20th century, has died.

Throughout his career Andrew was involved in major projects including the National Library of Scotland, the Edinburgh Post Office mechanised letter sorting system, Dublin University Library and The British Golf Museum in St Andrews.

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He also designed the North Lanarkshire Heritage Centre, whose concept was based on the writings of Scottish town planner and sociologist Sir Patrick Geddes.

Andrew Merrylees in his younger daysAndrew Merrylees in his younger days
Andrew Merrylees in his younger days

His first major building as project architect was the Edinburgh University Library in 1963, the design of which was influenced by his love of both Japanese and Scandinavian architecture. Although the principal architect of the project, he was always keen to praise others’ involvement, pointing out that it was a team effort and he was the merely the “team captain”.

Born on 13 October 1933 in Newmains, Lanarkshire, he was gifted an easel for his 4th birthday and immediately took to putting pencil and brush to paper. During his school years he met Maie, who went on to be his wife of more than 60 years. Andrew and Maie had three children together and eventually settled in Edinburgh.

A gifted artist, he made the decision to pursue a career in architecture rather than painting, following in the steps of an uncle who was in the profession. He said that his “artist eye” always informed his “architectural eye” and vice versa: “An architect draws a rectangle and that becomes a window, but when you’re an artist you know that the window has glass and it’s going to reflect the clouds, someone’s going to put up curtains, put a potted plant on the windowsill and the stonework is going to weather and streak and so on.”

In 1951 Andrew went to study at the School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art, and remained there to complete a postgraduate diploma in town planning. In 1952 at the end of his first university year he won a place as student assistant in the architect practice Basil Spence & Partners in Edinburgh. Andrew was promoted to architect in 1957 and associate in 1968, before being taken into the partnership in 1972.

Andrew left the Basil Spence & Partners firm in 1985 to set up his own practice as Andrew Merrylees Associates in Edinburgh's New Town. In January 2001 the practice was merged with Hypostyle Architects and he became consultant at the offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Hamilton.

In 1984, Andrew, was elected an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy. He became a full RSA in 1991 and exhibited at the academy for over 50 years, later turning his hand to watercolours. An active member of the academy, Andrew served on various committees and held the positions of Internal Auditor for three years. In 1996 was elected at Assembly to be Deputy President for one year.

While maintaining his own practice, Andrew became an external examiner at various schools of Architecture and a visiting tutor at the Universities of Strathclyde and Dundee for more than 30 years. During this time he also became the external examiner of Interior Design at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design.

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A frequent visitor to his buildings, Andrew enjoyed seeing them in use: “I'm not precious about it because I know people will use them the way they want,” he said. “My designs are robust enough for that.”

His love of painting endured for all of his life and Andrew continued to paint throughout his career and into retirement. He exhibited his work widely in both Scotland and France. One of his last exhibitions at the Scottish Arts Club was titled “Around the World at 80” – a series of 80 paintings which documented his journey around the world with Maie and coincided with his 80th birthday in 2013.

A highly decorated architect, Andrew received awards such as the Royal Institute of British Architects, BA Bronze Medal, Saltire Award, Civic Trust Award, Art in Architecture Award, Royal Scottish Academy Gillies Award and the Royal Scottish Academy Gold Medal.

Commentating at the time of his Lifetime Achievement award from the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland in 2013, the then President, Iain Connelly, said : “Andrew Merrylees is a hugely talented architect and artist. Many of his buildings sit at the centre of our universities and colleges and are greatly appreciated by everyone who uses them.

"This is a man who has enhanced the land of his birth through both his work and his example. He is a thoroughly kind, decent, gentle and humorous human being.”

Andrew is survived by wife Maie, daughter Fiona, sons Gary and Scott, grandchildren Harri, Mike, Andy, Thomas, Lewis, Beth and Alex and great grandson Jack.


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