Basic Biographical Details

Name: Duncan Ian Black
Designation: Architect
Born: 2 May 1922
Died: 17 September 1995
Bio Notes: Duncan Ian Black was born on 2 May 1922, the son of Finlay Kerr Black, land surveyor, and his wife Florence Maude Phipps. He studied at Edinburgh College of Art. His architectural training was interrupted by war service from 1941 when he joined the Bomber Command as a navigating officer. He was shot down in 1943 and spent the next two years in the Stalag Luft III.

During this time he put his superb drafting skills to excellent use, leading a team of forgers who produced hundreds of passports, travel passes and other documents. He and his team struggled for lack of paper and were challenged to copy the official Nazi rubber stamp (which they did painstakingly by hand). Even with working in poor light and with the most basic equipment, the documents they produced were done so well that they could not be distinguished from the real thing. The forgers also produced civilian clothes and Nazi uniforms from shabby prison clothes. He played a central role in two of the most infamous escapes of the Second World War, the Wooden Horse and the Great Escape. Though he was scheduled to take part himself in the Great Escape, he had to relinquish his place as he fell ill a few days before it took place. He remained in prison until May 1945 when he was liberated by American troops.

On his return to Edinburgh Black briefly pursued a career in acting but decided to complete his architectural training. He returned to Edinburgh College of Art. He was an outstanding student and was awarded the Rome Scholarship in 1952. He spent two years in Rome as postgraduate but returned home and joined the Ministry of Works in 1954. He moved to the Scottish Office two years later. [N.B. David ross states that Black worked with him at the Ministry in 1957]. He moved quickly up the career ladder and was appointed deputy chief architect in 1970, a post which he continued to hold until his retirement in 1982. During this period he worked under Chief Architect Bruce Beckett.

During his career he made an important contribution to the development of the New Towns in Scotland, including Glenrothes and Irvine. He had a particular interest in housing and had a long and fruitful association with the Saltire Housing Award Scheme.

Outwith his work Black had wide and varied interests and creative talents and was a keen member of the Scottish Arts Club and of the Traverse Theatre.

He suffered a stroke in 1993. He was a retired ARIAS at the time of his death on 17 September 1995. He never married but lived with his life-long friend Maurice Guild.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 5Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/business   
Item 2 of 5Flat 2/1 9, Logan Street, Edinburgh, Scotland  1995 
Item 3 of 511, Pentland Crescent, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1950After 1960 
Item 4 of 56, St Vincent Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1970 *  
Item 5 of 5Scottish Development Department/80-83, Princes Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness1979 *  

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 3H M Office of Works (later Ministry of Works, Department of the Environment and Property Services Agency)1954 Architect 
Item 2 of 3Scottish Office Architect's Department1956 Architect 
Item 3 of 3Scottish Office Architect's Department1970 Deputy Architect 


RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 1Geoffrey Copcutt7 October 1970For Fellowship


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 4RIBA1950The RIBA Kalendar 1950-1951 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 
Item 2 of 4RIBA1961Kalendar 1960-61   
Item 3 of 4RIBA1970RIBA Directory 1970   
Item 4 of 4RIBA1979Directory of members   

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 5Builder1 August 1952  p156-157 - shows design for 'Commonwealth House: A Government Hospitality Centre', which won the Rome Scholarship
Item 2 of 5Edinburgh Evening News22 September 1995   
Item 3 of 5Glasgow Herald25 September 1995   
Item 4 of 5RIAS Newsletter1995v6, no9 Death notice
Item 5 of 5RIAS NewsletterFebruary 1996v7, no1  

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2H M Register HouseDeath Register  
Item 2 of 2RIAS, Rutland SquareRecords of membership