Basic Biographical Details

Name: Douglas Philip Jarvie Laird
Designation: Architect
Born: 30 September 1932
Died: 9 December 2015
Bio Notes: Douglas Philip Jarvie Laird was born at 1 Jessfield Terrace, Leith on 30 September 1932, the son of David Findlay Laird, stockbroker's clerk, who owned a stationer’s and printing shop, and his wife Annie Combe Jarvie. His father died when he was only eleven years old. His mother continued to live in the Trinity area and he attended Trinity Primary School. He developed an early interest in astronomy, once climbing onto the roof of a neighbour's property to watch a solar eclipse.

He studied architecture at Edinburgh College of Art, where he was noted for his fluent sketching style and all the considered thought that went into his work. He was articled to Basil Spence & Partners from 1949 to 1954, staying with the practice for a further year thereafter. He had brief spell with Michael Laird Architects and was admitted ARIBA in 1957. He married his wife Margaret in 1958.

Laird designed his own home, Laird House, in Dunbar in the late 1950s. He decided that he wanted to work as well as live in East Lothian and joined Campbell & Arnott, a practice which was based in Haddington in the early 1960s. His main interest was in residential properties and he designed many houses in East Lothian. Each one was carefully planned to take account of how the activities in a house related to one another as well as of the setting and environment. He also oversaw a programme of rehabilitation of local authority houses in Dunbar.

He was a partner in Campbell & Arnott from at least 1970, and later director. The practice was responsible for a number of significant developments during this period. His final major project with the firm was the design of the new organ in St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. It was built in Austrian oak by an Austrian firm. He completed the project in 1992 and retired at that time. However he continued to be involved with organ design round the world including one in California for the United Church of Christ in Los Angeles. He was able to select which projects he wanted to undertake and often travelled abroad, taking his wife with him on the most interesting international commissions.

As a person, Laird had a unique blend of energy, fun, attention to detail and consideration of others. After a serious fire at Dunbar Parish Church in January 1987, he re-designed the building with the community raising almost £1million to rebuild it. He was actively involved with the community in Dunbar, serving for 40 years from 1964 as an elder in his church. He remained a member of the town’s 20 club and was made a lifetime honorary member. He served on the Town Council from 1973-75. He was chairman of the Abbeyfield Society for 20 years.

He was widowed in 2003 but found a new partner in Norma Mills in 2005.

Laird died on 9 December 2015 survived by Norma, his two sons and five grandchildren

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 210, Beresford Gardens, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivatec. 1960  
Item 2 of 2North Road, Dunbar, East Lothian, ScotlandPrivate1970 *  

* 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 3Basil Spence & Partners19491954ApprenticeIn Edinburgh office.
Item 2 of 3Basil Spence & Partners19541955Assistant(?) 
Item 3 of 3Campbell & ArnottBefore 19701980sPartner 

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 14Late 1950sLaird HouseDunbar East LothianScotland 
Item 2 of 141960sKirklandsDunbar East LothianScotlandAlterations? Conversion to care home?
Item 3 of 141963Drill HallDunbar East LothianScotlandReconstruction as Victoria Ballroom
Item 4 of 14196710 CLASP schools   Scotland 
Item 5 of 141968Walker's of Leith Sawmill, officeRestalrig EdinburghScotland 
Item 6 of 141970Castellan LibraryDunbar East LothianScotlandRestoration
Item 7 of 141982Botanical Gardens, pavilionInverleith EdinburghScotland 
Item 8 of 141985Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre  EdinburghScotland 
Item 9 of 141985Lammermuir HouseDunbar East LothianScotland 
Item 10 of 141989Dunbar Parish ChurchDunbar East LothianScotlandRestoration
Item 11 of 141989Saltire Court  EdinburghScotlandWon competition and secured job
Item 12 of 141990Parkgate CourtAlloa ClackmannanshireScotland 
Item 13 of 14c. 2000St Giles Cathedral  EdinburghScotlandDesign of new organ
Item 14 of 14After 2003United Church of Christ, organ  Los AngelesUnited States of America 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 3Allen, Nic (ed.) Scottish Architects in Conservation  p23
Item 2 of 3RIBA1960The RIBA Kalendar 1959-19601959-1960  
Item 3 of 3RIBA1970RIBA Directory 1970   

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1Scotsman11 January 2016  p33 Obituary

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 3National Archives (via Scotlands People)Statutory births  
Item 2 of 3RIAS, Rutland SquareRecords of membership  
Item 3 of 3Sent to DSA by emailInformation from AHRC/RCAHMS Spence project per David W Walker and Clive Fenton Clive Fenton's research notes (sent July 2010)