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Obituary: Philip Dowson (1924 – 2014)

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A founding partner of Arup Associates, Philip Dowson, has died, aged 90

After leaving Gresham School in Norfolk, Dowson went onto read maths at University College, Oxford before joining the navy during the Second World War. On returning from the forces he studied art history at Clare College, Cambridge, graduating in 1950.

A graduate of the Architectural Association, Dowson joined Ove Arup and Partners in 1952. Ten years later, he suggested forming a ‘building group’ within the engineering firm and the architects practice Arup Associates was born.

While leading Arup Associates alongside Ove Arup, Ronald Hobbs and Derek Sugden, Dowson completed many projects including buildings for Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, the Thomas White Building at St John’s College, Oxford, and the Maltings at Snape for Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears.

Dowson retired from Arup Associated in 1989 but remained a consultant for the practice up until his death.

He was made a CBE in 1969 and was knighted in 1979 – the same year that he became a Royal Academician.

In 1993, he became president of the Royal Academy - a post which he held until 1999.

According to a statement released by the Royal Academy, Dowson’s long career was ‘an exemplary demonstration of the view that architecture is a combination of art and science’.

Dowson was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 1981.

He is survived by his wife, Sarah Dowson, his son, two daughters, and six grandchildren. A memorial service will be announced in the future.

Laboratories and process building for CIBA (ARL) Limited, Duxford, Cambridge by Arup Associates

Laboratories and process building for CIBA (ARL) Limited, Duxford, Cambridge by Arup Associates




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Readers' comments (1)

  • Here in Birmingham, Dowson developed an industrialised building method for new laboratories at the university, based on a three-dimensional geometry of multiple grids.

    In a paper to the RIBA in February 1966 he reflected on "the richness and variety of space that can be created within the strict geometrical disciplines that are the reflection of an industrialised method".

    He went on to warn that "although [industrialisation] is compelling us the whole time to learn a new language of methods, even an exceptional command of a language does not necessarily imply the possession of any valuable ideas to express".

    Another illustration of his belief that architecture is a combination of art and science.

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