Isi Metzstein

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Isi Metzstein
Born(1928-07-07)7 July 1928
Berlin, Germany
Died10 January 2012(2012-01-10) (aged 83)
Glasgow, Scotland.
Spouse(s)Danielle Kahn
Partner(s)Andy MacMillan
PracticeGillespie, Kidd & Coia
BuildingsSt Peter's Seminary, Cardross
Interior of St. Peter's Seminary, Cardross

Isi Israel Metzstein OBE (7 July 1928 – 10 January 2012) was a German-born architect who worked at Gillespie, Kidd & Coia and taught at the Glasgow School of Art.[1] He became known for his postwar architectural designs working in the European modernist style of Le Corbusier and the American Frank Lloyd Wright.[2]

The Glasgow School of Art where Isi Metzstein taught.

Early life[edit]

Isi Metzstein was born in the Mitte district of Berlin in 1928,[3] one of five children.[1] His parents, Efraim and Rachel Metzstein, were Polish Jews who had moved to Germany in 1920. Isi had an older sister, Lee, an older brother, Josef, a twin sister, Jenny, and a younger brother, Leo,[3] In 1933, Isi's father, Efraim, died leaving his mother to raise the five children on her own.

In November 1938, after Kristallnacht had seen Isi's school set on fire, his mother saw to it that her children were kept safe by sending the 11-year-old Isi and his siblings to Britain on the Kindertransport.[3] With his brothers and sisters scattered around the UK, Isi was taken in by a family in Hardgate, Clydebank[2] before they could all be reunited once more, eventually settling in Glasgow.[3]


After leaving Hyndland School in 1945, Isi's professional career as an architect began with taking evening classes in architecture at the Glasgow School of Art[2] and an apprenticeship under Jack Coia[2] at Gillespie, Kidd & Coia. Whilst at the Glasgow School of Art, Isi met Andy MacMillan and the two became friends, often going for drinks together in the Kings Arms on Elmbank Street.[3]

When Andy MacMillan joined the firm in 1954, the pair designed many churches, colleges & schools together in the Modernist style.[2]

In 1969, Isi began teaching at the Glasgow School of Art.[3] and became Professor of Architecture at the University of Edinburgh in 1984 before returning to teach in Glasgow in 1991.[3]

Notable designs[edit]

  • St. Paul's Church, Glenrothes (1957)
  • St. Bride's Church, East Kilbride (1962)
  • Halls of Residence, University of Hull (1963-67)
  • St. Patrick's Church, Kilsyth (1964)
  • Our Lady of Good Counsel, Dennistoun (1965)
  • St. Peter's Seminary (1966).
  • St Columba's Roman Catholic Church
    St Columba's RC Church
    Notre Dame College, Bearsden (1968–69)
  • St. Benedict's, Drumchapel (1970)
  • St Margaret's Hospice, Clydebank (1970)
  • St Margaret's RC Church, Clydebank (1970)
  • The Library at Wadham College, Oxford. (1971-1977)
  • Cumbernauld Technical College (1972)
  • Robinson College, Cambridge.(1974-1980)
  • Bonar Hall, Dundee (1975)
  • Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Cumbernauld
    Sacred Heart RC Church, Cumbernauld
    Glasgow School of Art refectory (1981)


  • Royal Scottish Academy Gold Medal (1975).
  • RIAS Lifetime Achievement Award 2008 (with MacMillan)
  • Honorary RIBA Fellowship
  • RIBA Annie Spink Prize for Education 2008 (with MacMillan)[4]

Personal life[edit]

Isi married Danielle Kahn in 1967 [3] and the pair had three children, Mark, Saul and Ruth.[1]

He died on 10 January 2012[1] at their home in Hillhead, Glasgow.[3]


Writing of Isi Metzstein's passing for Architectural Review, Clare Wright noted that:

"With a change of ethos post war, Coia ceded much of the design control to the young Isi and Andy. An early project for St Paul’s Church in Glenrothes (1957) is a modest building of simple form and materials, yet exhibits an extraordinary quality of light and monumental presence which owed much to Le Corbusier. The sixteen churches that followed formed a distinctive body of work. Combining functional requirements with resonant symbolism, they were the perfect vehicle for developing an architectural philosophy, which reached its most mature expression in the design for St Peter’s Seminary at Cardross."[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Isi Metzstein". Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  2. ^ a b c d e Stamp, Gavin (2012-01-22). "Isi Metzstein obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Goold, David. "Dictionary of Scottish Architects - DSA Architect Biography Report (November 16, 2016, 3:30 pm)". Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  4. ^ a b "ISI METZSTEIN 1928-2012". Architectural Review. Retrieved 2016-11-16.