1981 - Philip Dowson 1924 -

Paint factory, Cleveland Road Industrial Estate, Hemel Hempstead

Designer: Dowson, Sir Philip (1924-); Ove Arup & Partners; Pym, Francis
Copyright: John Pantlin/Architectural Press Archive/RIBA British Architectural Library (1956)

Sir Philip Dowson was one of the first architects to espouse the concept of collaboration in architectural practice. He joined the engineering firm Ove Arup and Partners in 1953 as an architect and set up the architects’ practice Arup Associates ten years later with Ove Arup, Ronald Hobbs and Derek Sugden as a division in which architects, engineers and quantity surveyors collaborated to produce buildings.

His approach was always a rational, scientific one, based on the belief that the function of a building, the nature of the materials used and the necessary methods of construction should form the basis of the design approach.


This was a principle which he stuck to throughout his long and distinguished career which led to buildings as diverse as those for Corpus Christi College Cambridge and the Old Truman Brewery in Brick lane, London. This latter work pre-figured the re-working of many old, disused buildings in the later 20th and early 21st century, giving them new life and purpose and kick-starting the regeneration of British cities.


Research and production buildings and offices for CIBA

Designer: Dowson, Sir Philip (1924-); Ove Arup & Partners
Copyright: Colin Westwood/RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (1959)

'While remaining faithful to his Modernist Movement roots, he has produced buildings of great character, style and humanity, both for his earlier buildings and his current work'.

Arup Associates’ clear and powerful forms pioneered ways of working in a variety of historic contexts. The Thomas White Building at St John’s College, Oxford, incorporated an old wall within into the concrete components, while the conversion of the Maltings at Snape for Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears showed how an existing building could become a top class concert hall, with acoustics and facilities to match any in the world.


He was made a CBE in 1969 and was knighted in 1979. He also became a Royal Academician in 1979. Since retiring in 1990, Dowson has been President of the Royal Academy between 1993 and 1999 and he remains a consultant to Arup Associates.