Monday, 28 June 2010

Obituary in the Scotsman

On Saturday an Obituary, written by Neil Baxter- a long time friend of my Mum and Dad's who is the Secretary and Treasurer of the RIAS (Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland)- was published in the Scotsman newspaper. It was half a page of the newspaper which was a lovely honour. 

It is well written and summarises many of my Dad's architectural accomplishments whilst still describing the man my Dad was.

Click here to view the edited version online on the Scotsman pages or read below for Neil's original copy:


Obituary - Jim Landels FRIAS 10.05.54 - 14.06.10

The Edinburgh architect Jim Landels, who has died aged 56, was a modest, thoroughly decent, highly talented and much loved man. His urbanity was renowned and his pawky, sometimes acerbic, but never cruel humour endeared him to all he met. His sense of humour was such that he was frequently accused of being Glaswegian. While many citizens of Edinburgh might have been appalled, Jim took this as a great compliment and never refuted the suggestion. There are many, to this day, who believe firmly that Jim Landels hailed from Glasgow and many from Glasgow who wish he had. It is a mark of the admiration and respect of his fellow architects that on the 16th June 2010 his professional body, the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, awarded him their Fellowship. This is only the second occasion when this award has been given posthumously.

A native of Edinburgh, James Paxton (Jim) Landels was the son of James Paxton and Ellen Landels (nee Bannon). His father, always know as Jimmy, had a butchers shop in Joppa. Jim was a bright child and after being made Dux of his local primary school in Portobello, won a Scholarship to Edinburgh Royal High School. He subsequently studied architecture at Edinburgh College of Art. After year out work at the Scottish Special Housing Association and the Scottish Development Department, his first job was with Robert Matthew Johnson Marshall & Partners before he joined Kneale and Russell Architects in 1978. In fact, news of this job came through on his wedding day.

Jim became a partner in Kneale and Russell in 1982. His first project for the practice was Deanery Close, a sheltered housing scheme of around a dozen houses - for Viewpoint Housing Association at Restalrig. The site was difficult, almost land-locked, with occupied buildings on three sides. The only access was through a pend under one of the buildings. The complexities of that project prepared Jim for the much more demanding task of tenement refurbishment for the Gorgie/Dalry Housing Association at Caledonian Crescent. The tenements were in multiple ownership. Jim proved to be forthright and tough in dealing with contractors, owners and tenants and yet his humour and sense of purpose helped achieve a successful completion. Other housing work included new-builds for Edinvar, Viewpoint, Canmore and Link Housing Associations. Among the largest such developments was a mixed private and social housing development at Morrison Street, Edinburgh, for a combination of private developers along with Canmore Housing Association and Napier University.

In the early 1980s the commission for major works at the historic Fort George, near Inverness, demonstrated Jim’s skills and sensitivity as a conservation architect. In 1984/5 the Property Services Agency awarded Kneale and Russell the contract to design junior ratings accommodation for the Navy at HMS Cochrane at Rosyth. Sadly finance was withdrawn and Jim’s very thoughtful design was never built. One, particularly traumatic, event was the death, in June 1985, of Stuart Russell in a diving accident. Jim’s other partners at the time, Tony Kneale and Clifford Martin relied on his immense emotional strength to help maintain the equilibrium of the practice during the traumatic aftermath of Stuart’s death

Jim’s experience ranged across an impressive breadth of different building types. In the education sector he worked on a number of projects for the University of Edinburgh, including laboratories, teaching facilities and more recently, the Small Animal Hospital at the Bush Estate. One notable success in this sector was the new Leith Academy (1990), which was the subject of much critical praise and press coverage at the time and received several awards. In the commercial sector Jim worked on bank facilities, predominantly for the Bank of Scotland, where he delivered new buildings in Portobello and Peebles and oversaw refurbishment and fit-out projects in Southampton, Bristol and Edinburgh. The practice also delivered major call centres for British Telecom in Dumbarton and Glasgow.

Healthcare was another specialisation with medical and dental facilities for the Ministry of Defence at Edzell and small clinics in Glasgow, Dundee and Falkirk. Leisure developments included holiday homes at the Atholl Hotel, Pitlochry, a substantial re-fit at the Scotsman Hotel and the Edinburgh Airport Hotel for the British Airports Authority.

In 1991 the practice became involved in the major design competition for the Haymarket goodsyard site in association with international practice, the Percy Thomas Partnership. The competition was won by the combined practices, but sadly, the project was later largely abandoned. Jim subsequently helped deliver the successful merger of Kneale and Russell with Percy Thomas Partnership. In 2004 the practice was renamed Marland Consulting Group.

Jim Landels’ work in education has informed generations of students on the courses at Napier, Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh Universities. His skills as an external examiner and Part III (architect’s professional practice) examiner are legend. His work as a mentor for less able students was less visible, but through his nurturing and willingness to employ those he saw as having unrealised potential, a number of students on failure lists have gone on to become successful and even award-winning Scottish architects.

Jim Landels’ work over recent years for the Architects’ Professional Examination Authority in Scotland, as a Part III examiner, is frequently quoted as exemplary practice. He invariably dealt with often nervous candidates with calm and supportive good humour, helping many “over the line “ but trusting to his very sound judgment when tough decisions had to be made. The “Landels Method” is known to many Scottish Part III examiners as a thoroughly reliable way of making difficult decisions in the fraught Part III interview process. Again, it is much quoted as best practice. However, rather like members of the Magic Circle, Part III examiners tend to keep the details of the Landels Method to themselves.

Jim Landels was a passionate architect and a great believer in the ability of well designed buildings to improve people’s lives. His dedication to architectural practice and teaching is apparent in a number of published articles and papers, including guidance for the Royal Incorporation of Architects on the impact of fee tendering and how to market your way out of a recession. A lifelong interest in photography was demonstrated in his design for the famous Stills Gallery on Edinburgh’s High Street for his dear friend, the late Murray Johnston. He also put in a huge effort towards creating a museum of photography in the Old Royal High School - a goal which, sadly, eluded him.

In addition to his passionate study of Scottish photographic history, Jim was a voracious reader. However his main interests, outwith architecture, were all sporting. He was an avid camper and outdoorsman, enjoying skiing, fishing and sailing, in all of which he excelled. His daughters recall that he liked nothing more than “going like the clappers” down a ski slope. A minor human frailty was demonstrated in Jim’s giving up competitive skiing when his, then 17 year-old, daughter started to beat him on a regular basis. Although Jim didn’t sail competitively, he was a keen yachtsman and owned a GP14 sailing dinghy.  Appropriately, given his attitude to life, he named it “Swift Current”.

Jim’s fight with cancer started in 2002. At the outset he was given a relatively short prognosis. On two occasions he came, quite literally, to death’s door, only to rally remarkably and bring himself back to fitness. His campaign for the cancer drug Sutent to be made available on the Scottish NHS gained major publicity and even saw Jim appearing on TV news bulletins. His intelligent, persuasive charm helped win the day, to the benefit of many fellow cancer sufferers.

Jim’s fight back against cancer won him nearly a decade in which he continued to enjoy the company of his very many good friends and to work in the field of architecture which he loved. Most importantly he gained precious time to enjoy the company of his father, who died last year, his mother, his wife and their two adored daughters. Jim Landels is survived by his mother Ellen, wife Lorraine and their daughters Jennifer and Rebecca.

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