Dowson, Sir Philip (1 of 17) National Life Story Collection: Architects' Lives

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  • Recording locations

    Arup Associates offices, London

  • Interviewees

    Dowson, Sir Philip, 1924-2014 (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Brodie, Louise, (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Philip Dowson [PD] came to England aged two and a half. The family home is at Geldeston in Norfolk. PD's father was a mechanical engineer and spent his formative years designing locomotives. He loved making things. Married late. PD grew up also making things and is proud of a racing dinghy made by himself. He loves the sea and sailing. The war years changed everything. PD had two years in hospital with TB which was when he decided to do architecture. It is an exciting thing to live in what you have designed. He started with science and ended with arts, the issues are not different. He was invited to join Arups by Ove due to the thesis he wrote, came for 6 months and has stayed for 50 years. His epitaph - one wife, one house, one job. He was born in 1924 in Johannesburg. His father was opening up technology in South Africa, started the firm of Dowson and Dobson. He was largely retired when he took his family of five children back to Norfolk. His mother was a strong character. Further description of family and their place in Norfolk. PD's mother was Irish, feminine and had a spine of steel. Her father had started the Cape Times in South Africa. The marriage was a happy one. The house was also used as a creative retreat for Arups. PD is the youngest in the family after Oria, Brenda, Rox, and David, who died aged 17 of measles. Description of the house with its large music room, now used by PD for drawing. As children they went everywhere freely using the Waveney valley marshes as their playground. They grew their food in the gardens. It was a stable society. Very human. With the war, many were killed and everything changed.

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