Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Architect, of Dublin. Joseph Vincent Downes eldest son of Sir Joseph Downes, JP, owner of the baking and confectionery business of Joseph Downes and Son, Ltd., and his first wife Teresa née Carton was born in Co. Dublin in 1890 or 1891.  He was educated at Castleknock College and appears to have started working in the family business,(1) before deciding to enter the School of Architecture at University College, Dublin, from which he was one of the first to graduate. During his college course he served a two-year apprenticeship in the office of the architects O'CALLAGHAN & CALLAGHAN & amp; WEBB. After graduating B.Arch with honours in 1920, he worked in London, first in the office of Sir Herbert Baker, where he assited in the preparation of plans for the government offices and parliament buildings in Delhi and for the Bank of England, then for ROBERT ATKINSON ROBERT ATKINSON , architect of the Gresham Hotel, Dublin, for which he later acted as architect on site. In 1928 he became a partner in the firm of MCDONNELL & MCDONNELL & amp; DIXON;(2) the partnership was dissolved on 29 Sep 1935, whereupon he set up his own practice at 53 Fitzwilliam Square.(3) In 1944 he entered into partnership with FRANCIS BERNARD MEEHAN  FRANCIS BERNARD MEEHAN to form the practice of DOWNES & DOWNES & amp; MEEHAN MEEHAN . Five years later, in 1949, HARRY STANLEY ROBSON  HARRY STANLEY ROBSON was also taken into partnership. Downes travelled widely in Europe and the United States and, in the course of his travels, built up a large collection of slides of modern buildings, which is now in the Irish Architectural Archive (Acc. 97/75). Using these slides he gave illustrated lectures to the AAI and others, and from 1933 onwards he lectured on architecture at Maynooth. On the death of RUDOLF MAXIMILIAN BUTLER  RUDOLF MAXIMILIAN BUTLER in 1943, he was appointed professor of architecture at University College, Dublin. In the eight years of his tenure of the chair, he was responsible for the complete reorganization of the school of architecture although, according to Rothery, his diffident and introverted temperament made it difficult for him to communicate with students or stamp his personality on the school. While he was a professor at UCD, he made a detailed study of the alternative possibilities of expanding the college on the Earlsfort Terrace site or on a green field site at Belfield in the southern suburbs, the one which was subsequently chosen by the college. He resigned the professorship in 1951(4) and in 1958 was awarded an honorary doctorate by the National University of Ireland in recognition of his work for the college.(5)

As the leading spokesman on behalf of the modern movement in Ireland, Downes was not an architect whose services were sought by the Catholic clergy despite his manifest interest in church design. He was a member of the the Academy of Christian Art, founded in Dublin in 1929, and was later to take part in a lively correspondence in the Irish Independent that had been sparked off by a sermon given by Dr P.A. Beecher of Maynooth in September 1939 condemning modernism in church architecture. In December 1939 the Academy held a debate on 'Irish ecclesiastical architecture and the question of a national style', in which Downes spoke on the side of the modernists.(6) At about this time he received his only church commission, the tiny chapel at the Hospital of Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda.

Downes died at St Vincent's Nursing Home in Leeson Street(7) on 23 November 1967 aged 76. The remarkable architectural library which he had collected was dispersed after his death.(8) Rothery writes of him: 'The paradox of J.V. Downes is that his name is practically forgotten despite the fact that, on the evidence of his huge library, world travels, professional photography and lectures to the AAI, he was certainly the best-informed architect in Ireland on the new architecture of the twentieth century. He indulged in no self-publicity but in his own quiet way was probably the greatest single influence on the introduction of modern architecture to Ireland.'(9)

His pupils and assistants included JOSEPH PATRICK ALCOCK JOSEPH PATRICK ALCOCK , LESLIE HAROLD BRYSON LESLIE HAROLD BRYSON , Anthony Holden, Frank Montgomery and JAMES STANISLAUS JOSEPH WALL. JAMES STANISLAUS JOSEPH WALL. (10)

AAI:(11) elected member, 1916; vice-president, 1926-7.
RIAI: elected member, 1922; hon. secretary, 1934; vice-president, 1935, 1943; fellow, 21 August 1936.(12)
RIBA: elected fellow, 1941.(13)

Addresses:(14) Work: 20 Ely Place Upper, 1927-1935; 53 Fitzwilliam Square, 1936-1955; 37 Leeson Park, from 1955.
Home: South Hill, Milltown, Co. Dublin, 1917-1921; 19 Norfolk Square, Hyde Park, London W.2, 1922-24; 22 Ailesbury Rd, Dublin, 1925-32; Dunboy, Brighton Rd, Foxrock, c.1940 until death.

See WORKS, BIBLIOGRAPHY BIBLIOGRAPHY . See also works of MCDONNELL & MCDONNELL & amp; DIXON  DIXON for period 1927-35 and of DOWNES & DOWNES & amp; MEEHAN  MEEHAN for period from 1945 onwards.



References

All information in this entry not otherwise accounted for is from the biography of Downes in IB 85, 18 Dec 1943, 484, and the the obituaries in IB 109, 16 Dec 1967, ?, RIAI Year Book 1968, 33 (by 'H.R.', presumably Harold Robson), and ?The Irish Times, 25 Nov 1967 (newspaper cutting in Jones file, source not given). Downes's contribution to the modern movement in Ireland is discussed in detail in Rothery. Downes appears in a group photograph of the council of the RIAI, 1934, in JRIAI (1934) (frontispiece).

(1) He appears to have been a son of Sir Joseph Downes, J.P., High Sheriff of Dublin City in 1900, owner of the baking and confectionery business of Joseph Downes and Son, Ltd., who married Teresa Carton in 1884.
(2) Downes gives 20 Ely Place as his address for the first time in the RIAI membership list for 1929.
(3) IB 78, 25 Jan 1936, 79.
(4) IB 83, 3 Mar 1951, 224.
(5) IB 100, 26 Jul 1958, 551; 101, 10 Jan 1959, 101.
(6) For a a more detailed account see Rothery, 172-5.
(7) Death notice from ?Irish Times in Jones files.
(8) For a description of the contents of this library see Rothery, 135-7.
(9) Rothery, 139.
(10) Rothery, 137.
(11) IAA Green Books.
(12) JRIAI lists of officers and members and IB 78, 1 Sep 1936, 780.
(13) RIBA Kalendar 1957-1958, 180.
(14) From Thom's Directories and RIAI and AAI membership lists.


19 work entries listed in chronological order for DOWNES, JOSEPH VINCENT


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Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, ROYAL AVENUE, NO. 092-100 (BANK OF IRELAND)
Date: 1928-30
Nature: Art Deco. By JVD of McDonnell, Dixon & Downes. Builder: J. & R. Thompson.
Refs: Drawing(s) in Bank of Ireland archive; drawing exh. RHA 1929, no. 379; IB 66, 14 Jun,26 Jul 1924, 534,657; 70, 9 Jun 1928, 504; 72, 1 Mar,26 Apr,21 Jun 1930, 184,366,563; 74, 19 Nov 1932, 1050; Paul Larmour, Belfast: an illustrated architectural guide (1987), 83 (no. 190, illus.); Marcus Patton, Central Belfast: an historical gazetteer (UAHS, 1993), 289

Building: CO. KILKENNY, LISTERLIN, TECHNICAL SCHOOL
Date: 1932-34
Nature: New.
Refs: IB 74, 31 Dec 1932, 1165; 76, 2 Jun 1934, 478

Building: CO. KILKENNY, KILKENNY, FRESHFORD ROAD, COUNTY HOSPITAL (ST LUKE'S GENERAL HOSPITAL)
Date: 1932-42
Nature: New hospital in International Modern style for County Board of Health. JVD appointed architect, 1932.  I
Refs: IB 74, 17 Dec 1932, 1136; 78, 17,31 Oct 1936, 950,996; 79, 6 Mar 1937, 191(illus.); 80, 8 jAN 1938, 35; 81, 16 Sep 1939, 801; 82, 13 Apr 1940, 248; 84, 26 Sep 1942, 354(illus.); 98, 19 May 1956, 457(illus.); drawing of main entrance exh. RHA 1936, no. 294, axonometric view exh. 1937, no. 243, drawing of chapel exh. 1942, no. 250; photo. of chapel in JRIAI (1943), 18; Centenary Celebration of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and Conference of The Royal Institute of British Architects 21st to 24th June 1939, 61(illus.);  Paul Larmour, Free State Architecture:  Modern Movement architecture in Ireland, 1922-1949 (Kinsale: Gandon Editions, 2009),38,39(illus.),42.

Building: CO. DUBLIN, DUBLIN, KILROCK ROAD (HOWTH), ELSINORE
Date: 1933
Nature: -
Refs: Drawing of living room exh. RHA 1933, no. 224

Building: CO. DUBLIN, DUBLIN, DAME STREET, NO. 036 (INSURANCE CORPORATION OF IRELAND)
Date: 1936
Nature: New head office, 'carried out in brickwork of various tones with panels of black and gold tiles, but given a strong vertical accent by continuous glazing and projecting brick piers to the upper floors...[which] successfully achieved a strikingly modern effect with skilful restraint' (Larmour). Builder: S.Phillips
Refs: Drawing of new facade exh. RHA 1936, no. 290; IB 78, 8 Aug 1936, 683(illus.); AJ 89, 22 Jun 1939, 1082;  Paul Larmour, Free State Architecture:  Modern Movement architecture in Ireland, 1922-1949 (Kinsale: Gandon Editions, 2009), 70,71(illus., from IB, Aug 1936).


Building: CO. WEXFORD, NEW ROSS, HOUSES (075 OR 76)
Date: 1936-37
Nature: By 'Downes & Kelly'.
Refs: IB 78, 26 Dec 1936, 1179; 79, 6 Mar,15 May,16 Oct 1937, 217,453,928

Building: CO. DUBLIN, DUBLIN, MERCHANT'S QUAY, ADAM & EVE'S CHURCH (RC, FRANCISCAN)
Date: 1936-39
Nature: St Anthony Chapel off S aisle. (With B.T. Meehan.)
Refs: IB 100, 26 Jul 1958, 551;  Christine Casey, The Buildings of Ireland: Dublin (2005), 345.

Building: CO. KILKENNY, KILKENNY, ORMONDE ROAD, DISTRICT MODEL SCHOOL
Date: 1937
Nature: Alts & adds.
Refs: IB 79, 2,16 Oct 1937, 890,928

Building: CO. KILKENNY, BALLYHALE, VOCATIONAL SCHOOL
Date: 1938
Nature: New.
Refs: IB 80, 5 Mar 1938, 197

Building: CO. KILKENNY, JOHNSTOWN, VOCATIONAL SCHOOL
Date: 1938
Nature: New.
Refs: IB 80, 5 Mar 1938, 197

Building: CO. KILDARE, NAAS, TECHNICAL SCHOOL (ST PATRICK'S)
Date: 1938
Nature: Alterations to Block I, Naas Military Barracks for use as extension to St Patrick's Technical School for Co. Kildare VEC.
Refs: IB 80, 1 Oct 1938, 838

Building: CO. WEXFORD, NEW ROSS, HOUSES (049)
Date: 1938-39
Nature: -
Refs: IB 80, 23 Jul 1938, 625; 81, 28 Oct 1939, 904

Building: CO. KILKENNY, KILKENNY, VOCATIONAL SCHOOLS
Date: 1939-40
Nature: Formally opened, 1940. £15,000.
Refs: IB 82, 20 Jan 1940, 44

Building: CO. LOUTH, DROGHEDA, HARMAN'S GARDENS, CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF LOURDES (RC, OLD)
Date: 1939-41
Nature: New church in International Modern style.  Builder: J. & D. McIlvenna, Dublin.
Refs: IB 81, 4 Feb,23 Dec 1939, 106,1027; illus. in IB 83, 2 Aug 1941, 365;  illus.(exterior and interior) in
The Bell 4, no. 1 (April 1942), 35 (copy in IAA, RPC.96.5);  Paul Larmour, Free State Architecture:  Modern Movement architecture in Ireland, 1922-1949 (Kinsale: Gandon Editions, 2009) , 42,43(illus.).

Building: CO. KILDARE, PROSPEROUS, VOCATIONAL SCHOOL
Date: 1940
Nature: New.
Refs: IB 82, 11,25 May 1940, 328,352

Building: CO. DUBLIN, FOXROCK, BRIGHTON ROAD, DUNBOY
Date: 1940a
Nature: By JVD for himself.
Refs: IB 82, 26 Oct 1940, 653 (advertisement for Smith & Pearson windows) RIAI Yearbook 1946, 51(illus.); AJ , 12 Jun 1947, 5035(illus.); Architectural Design, Jul 1947, 183(illus.);  Paul Larmour, Free State Architecture:  Modern Movement architecture in Ireland, 1922-1949 (Kinsale: Gandon Editions, 2009), 53,54(illus.).

Building: CO. KILKENNY, KILKENNY, ORMONDE ROAD, VOCATIONAL SCHOOL
Date: 1941
Nature: Restoration.
Refs: St Patrick's, Kilkenny: gravestone inscriptions (Kilkenny Archaeological Society, n.d.), 49

Building: CO. KILKENNY, KILKENNY, FRESHFORD ROAD, COUNTY HOSPITAL (ST LUKE'S GENERAL HOSPITAL)
Date: 1943a
Nature: Chapel.
Refs: Illus. in RIAI Year Book (1943 & 1944), 18.

Building: CO. DUBLIN, DUBLIN, MERRION SQUARE, NO. 048-49 (NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF IRELAND)
Date: 1949
Nature: Extension at rere OF No. 48 for NUI.
Refs: IB 91, 5 Mar 1949, 216

Author Title Date Details
Downes, Joseph Vincent 'Modern architecture' 1933 IB 75, 30 Dec 1933, 1108. (Lecture given to RIAI & AAI.)
Downes, Joseph Vincent 'The case for modern architecture - once more' 1933 AAI Green Book (1934), 35-43.
Downes, Joseph Vincent 'Civic art and town planning' 1936 AJ 93, 16 Jan 1936, 78; IB 78, 25 Jan 1936, 51-53. (Paper read to AAI.)
Downes, Joseph Vincent 'Sweden: her architecture and industrial art' 1937 IB 79, 23 Jan 1937, 55. (Text, summary or note of paper read to AAI.)
Downes, Joseph Vincent 'Modern ecclesiastical architecture in Germany' 1938 IB 80, 10 Dec 1938, 1015-16. (Paper read to AAI.)
Downes, Joseph Vincent 'Tranquil years in church design' 1939 'Architecture Yesterday and Today', supplement to Irish Times, 21 Jun 1939, 22.
Downes, Joseph Vincent 'Technical school design' 1939 Irish Press RIAI Centenary Souvenir Number, 22 Jun 1939, 6.
Downes, Joseph Vincent 'Tradition in architecture' 1943 Studies 32 (1943), 392-8.