Obituary: Colin Dollimore
Tuesday 31 August 1993
COLIN DOLLIMORE's architectural roots were in the modern movement and like many then and now he saw it as a continuing and evolving language of space and form matching needs with a coherent order inwardly derived, not imposed.
As a teacher, Dollimore was marked out from academics who allowed students to indulge in wilder flights of fancy or modish abstractions; his counsel was to search for a 'high level of ordinariness' and he argued that good architecture emerges from concepts that recognise necessities realised in buildings that are detailed with thought and crafted with care. This he did in his own work.
Dollimore was born in 1932 and studied architecture at what was in those days the Polytechnic, the original institution in Regent Street, central London. Its school of architecture had exemption from both intermediate and final exams of the Royal Institute of British Architects and was noted for its many eminent part-time practitioner staff and the standards achieved by its students in both design and constructional knowledge.
Dollimore's early experience included work with the group Planning Design Team headed by Harley Sherlock and a time with Arup Associates, particularly working with the engineer Derek Sugden on the Snape Concert Hall, Snape Maltings, in Suffolk, a building for which he had a deep and abiding affection. Most of his too short professional life was with Trevor Dannatt and Partners where he became a partner in 1972 while working on what became the Riyadh Inter-Continental Hotel. A few years later he was partner responsible for the British Embassy Staff Housing in Riyadh: 35 houses structured round the Arab courtyard idea and, with massive walls contrasted by finely detailed screens over openings, delightful within and without in the harsh summer.
In England over the last 15 years Dollimore took the leading part in works for Thames Polytechnic (now the University of Greenwich), including a remarkable range of projects both modest and ambitious at its many campuses: classrooms, staff rooms, laboratories, workshops, lecture theatres and libraries. One of the happiest and most recent was the reordering of the great ballroom at Avery Hill into a most elegant library/reading room. At St Paul's School, in west London, the new Colet Court science building was his and for the Mercers' Company at Whittington College, Felbridge, in Surrey, he must be credited within the practice for the housing for the elderly on the Arkendale site, beautifully tailored into the existing landscape.
Dollimore pursued quality with all that persistence needed on any building project and was thoroughly professional in all he did. He was on the Council of the Association of Consultant Architects and arranged many talks and events for the Forum group within the ACA. Marius Reynolds, of the Highgate Society, recalls that, before professional and teaching commitments limited his time, Dollimore was much involved in the society's work. A long-standing member of the environment committee which he chaired in 1970-71, he was vice-president of the society from 1975 to 1978. He assisted with the refurbishment of Lauderdale House after the 1967 fire. This Grade One listed building in Waterlow Park is now a community arts centre. He advised the Friends of Highgate Cemetery on its care and it is fitting, Reynolds feels, that Dollimore should be buried there, in the West Cemetery which he loved.
Dollimore was a thoughtful and inspiring teacher. After an invitation in the Seventies to act as visiting critic at Washington University, St Louis, he returned there regularly as visiting Professor of Architecture and was about to run a studio there this semester. He also taught at the Mackintosh School, Glasgow, and was instrumental in establishing links between the two schools.
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