Sir Philip Dowson PPRA

We had the memorial service today of Sir Philip Dowson, the oldest living former President of the Royal Academy who till recently would loyally attend all the formal occasions, particularly the annual dinner about which he had strong views.   I got to know him in the 1990s when I was Director of the National Portrait Gallery and he was ex officio one of my Trustees.   He would come to meetings, but, more importantly, he chaired the committee for the selection of an architect to design the Ondaatje Wing.   He did this with admirable acumen.   The anonymity of his work as Chief Architect in Arup Associates mean that his work is much less well known than younger big-name architects, but he would have disapproved of the cult of the individual creator.   Otto SS took me on a tour recently of postwar buildings in Cambridge and showed me, which I had never seen, the amazingly brutal zoomorphic structure of Dowson’s Zoology building.   He also did the library at Clare (where he had been an undergraduate) in the 1980s, inserted into Gilbert Scott’s Memorial Court, and the original Maltings at Snape.   It was a good service, with music by Mozart, Bach and Vaughan Williams, an address by Sir Jack Zunz, whose house Philip designed, and another by Norman Ackroyd, remembering that it was under Philip that Burlington Gardens was acquired.

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