Building Scotland – Margaret Brodie

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Margaret Brodie center, Private Collection. 

The Architect, Margaret Brodie, has much to be recognised for and it is only over the last ten years her achievements are being discussed in a similar manner to her male counterparts. Born in 1907 in Largs, she was one of three daughters of John and Jane Brodie. Her father was a civil engineer with offices in Park Circus. Her parents, who were usually enlightened for the time wanted to ensure that their daughters were given the same educational opportunities as the male students. She studied at Glasgow High School for Girls before obtaining a place on the Architectural Course at the Glasgow School of Art. Brodie was one of the first fully-qualified women architects in Scotland, graduating from the School in 1928.

Villa di Papa Giulio, Rome, by M. Brodie C.1926  © GSA Archives & Collections

After graduating , she was lucky enough to be employed in the London Office of Sir John Burnet, Tait and Lorne, one of Britain’s most successful inter-war-architectural practices. And one of her first tasks, for the firm, was to work on the detail of Thomas Tait’s drawings for the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Paisley, which was said to be one of the most advanced hospitals in Europe at the time.

Architects journal
Map of the Empire Exhibition 1938, Architects’ Journal.

Brodie’s next large scale-project would be two years later in 1938, when she would work on ‘Tommy Tait’s….. most celebrated project’ – the 1938 Glasgow Empire Exhibition. Originally, not designed to have a ‘Women’s Pavilion’ but instead a ‘Fashion Pavilion’, the 15,000-square-foot Pavilion was undertaken by Brodie who was undaunted by the task and stated that she had the time of her life’ designing the building’.

Womens Pavilion
The Women’s Pavilion at the Empire Exhibition 1938

In 1945 Brodie established her own architectural practice and much of her latter work was with the Church or Scotland, either designing new churches or advising on the restoration of existing buildings. Her works from this time include Christ Scientist Church, Helensburgh, St Martin’s Church, Port Glasgow and Laurieston Church in the Gorbals.

By reading accounts, ‘Miss Brodie’ or ‘Miss Margaret’ as she was known in her Renfrewshire village of Lochwinnoch where she lived in Mill House, was quite the eccentric character. She was known for her style, classic country woman, and her appearance was commented on by the newspapers at the opening of the Empire Exhibition. Although Brodie succeeded in a competitive and male-dominated field, winning several awards and Honours over her career, she is on the record as stating that she strongly detested the notion of feminism. I’ll conclude this post with her advice to the younger female generation – ‘Never be a feminist, that’s important.’



One Comment Add yours

  1. The photograph of Margaret Brodie on the couch was taken at 10 Cleveden Crescent probably around 1955. The house them belonged to Gordon Webster who was a friend of Margaret. The other two people in the photo are Sir Hector MacLennan, and his son Robert (now Lord MacLennan).

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