Iain Wylie 1963 – 2022

Iain's painting

Iain Wylie 1963 - 2022

Iain Wylie
BArch (Hons), DipArch, FRIAS, RIBA

Iain Wylie, architect and Executive Director at Austin-Smith:Lord died suddenly on 13 May 2022, aged 58.

Iain was a very highly respected and prolific architect with a reputation as a talented and versatile designer, a business leader and an advocate for design quality. Iain was a great friend to many within and beyond the design and construction professions in Scotland and further afield, respected for his kindness, integrity and professionalism.

Iain was instrumental in establishing and leading Austin-Smith:Lord in Scotland as well as being responsible for many of the Practice’s signature projects, especially north of the Border.

In recognition of his contribution to the profession Iain became a Fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland in 2014. Iain’s design work was recognised with national design awards throughout his career. He was also a Partner when Austin-Smith:Lord were awarded the prestigious Architects’ Journal’s AJ100 Practice of the Year in 2010.

Iain studied architecture at Edinburgh College of Art. His talent was apparent from the outset, winning a Scholarship in 1986, the first of many accolades in a career characterised by enduring excellence.

During his studies he completed his first professional training period at the acclaimed Irvine Development Corporation Architects Department, whose work Iain admired greatly. After completing his studies at Edinburgh College of Art, Iain continued his path to professional accreditation working at the Property Services Agency, initially with the flagship Design Standards Office in London before returning to Scotland to work on Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Iain then returned to Irvine Development Corporation in the early 1990s and was Project Architect on several award-winning projects within Irvine New Town, notably at Irvine Harbourside.

Initially as a secondee from Irvine Development Corporation, Iain joined Scottish Enterprise and Locate in Scotland responsible for numerous Inward Investment projects for major companies. Iain then progressed to becoming an Associate with TPS Consult, responsible for the development of their Glasgow office and designing electronics and advanced manufacturing facilities for blue-chip clients.

Having had two highly successful spells at Irvine Development Corporation, Iain had impressed colleagues and won the admiration of his future business partners. He had forged a strong personal and professional bond that endured for the rest of Iain’s life with his great friends and mentors; George Wren, Roan Rutherford and George Reynolds with whom Iain established a new practice; Wren Rutherford Austin-Smith:Lord in 1998 with studios in Ayr and then, from 1999, in Glasgow.

Not only was Iain thrilled to be in business with his mentors he was also delighted that the new joint venture was with Austin-Smith:Lord whose work he had long admired. Iain thrived in this new venture and became a Partner with Austin-Smith:Lord when Wren Rutherford fully merged into the wider practice in 2003.

Gottries Road, Irvine Harbourside

Iain led the Austin-Smith:Lord team in Glasgow to grow to more than 25 strong within a decade, doing fine work across the country. Iain took great satisfaction in growing the practice, giving young and talented designers a chance and fostering great camaraderie within a creative studio environment.

Iain’s career and stature in the practice progressed rapidly as he not only delivered signature projects but also elevated the profile of Austin-Smith:Lord, especially in Scotland, and took on significant roles in leading the business, notably as a characteristically prudent and shrewd Finance Partner.

Iain was instrumental in guiding the business through a difficult period in the wake of the economic crisis in the late 2000s providing a steady resolve and unwavering commitment to the Practice, before becoming Chair of Austin-Smith:Lord in 2014; a role he fulfilled until 2020.

Iain was self-effacing and modest, and whilst he characteristically played down his skill and ability it shone through in his work, time and again. Iain led and was involved in designing award-winning housing and regeneration schemes, and flagship industrial projects as well as relishing the opportunity when at Austin-Smith:Lord to deliver education buildings (from pre-school nurseries and primary schools to university projects), and develop a deep knowledge and a passion for healthcare design.

Roseisle Distillery, Elgin

In each decade of Iain’s career his work won national award recognition including from the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, the British Council of Offices, the British Urban Regeneration Awards, the Saltire Society, Scottish Design Awards, Building Better Healthcare Awards, NHS Scotland Design Awards and the Glasgow Institute of Architects.

These awards were given for a diverse array of projects. In Irvine, whilst with the New Town’s Development Corporation, Iain created a careful composition of new housing skilfully linking the contemporary and the historic parts of the Harbourside masterplan. In Kilwinning, also in Ayrshire, a crisply detailed contemporary office pavilion secured a prestigious BCO Award.

A landmark super-distillery at Roseisle in Moray in 2010 pioneered integrated sustainable design and process engineering which has inspired a subsequent renaissance in distillery design, winning numerous accolades including RICS Project of the Year.

Iain’s design for Girvan Community Hospital skilfully nestles a substantial new healthcare facility into the South Ayrshire landscape to provide a positive gateway to the town by carefully modulating scale and materials appropriate to the setting. Migdale Community Hospital at Bonar Bridge deftly responds to a beautiful hillside setting, overlooking the sea loch, to sensitively integrate with the rugged, rural landscape of the Scottish Highlands.

In addition Iain was also involved in masterplanning hospitals and enterprise zones, waterfront masterplans on the Rivers Clyde and Forth, developing a vision for the Crichton campus in Dumfries, Wellington School campus in Ayr, historic buildings at Gartnavel, numerous projects at Quarriers care village, local health centres from Dalkeith to Drongan, a pioneering health and community hub in Kilmarnock, schools in Glasgow and Ayrshire, new workplace environments for Hewlett Packard, a University Library in Dundee, a massive energy centre at Severnside near Bristol, light industrial units near Galashiels and even designing a space-port facility and more besides.

Iain’s final project was for Ayrshire Hospice. It was the perfect job for him; to design a beautiful, caring environment for people in the area he loved. He was thrilled to be leading that project and it is hoped that, when realised, it will be a fitting legacy for a kind and caring man and a very talented architect.

Iain had the skill and humility necessary to collaborate with others to deliver designs and buildings of enduring quality. He had the compassion, tact and keen sense of fairness to be a natural and supportive leader. He had the integrity, commitment and determination to earn the respect and trust of his colleagues, peers and clients.

Iain had an easy charm, quick wit and keen interest in others. Iain’s easy-to-like and affable demeanour meant he was equally at ease in the company of anyone, from any walk of life. Iain simply enjoyed being with other folk and designing great buildings for them; taking the greatest pleasure in seeing great designs well built, having a positive impact and being enjoyed in use.

Beyond his skill and talent as an architect and designer Iain was also an accomplished sportsman, playing football semi-professionally and enjoying many other sports as a participant or spectator. A proud Scot he had a love of international travel but was always happiest at home in Ayrshire enjoying life as a great family man with his beloved wife Janet, their daughter Jemma and son Ross, amongst his wider family and many friends.

Iain William Wylie, architect

1 December 1963 – 13 May 2022


Obituary by Graham Ross