Caroline Dickson Studio Visit

30th October 2019
Studio idir travelled to Derry this week for the inaugural RSUA Women in Architecture practice visit, hosted by Caroline Dickson Architects at the Foyle Civic Trust.  There were 12 of us in total, sitting around a table in the lovely Foyle Civic Trust Cathedral House Building. Caroline was introduced by local architect Peter Tracey, chair of the Foyle Civic Trust. After describing her education and experience, which included a stint at Scott Tallon Walker in Dublin, a year working in a practice in Greece, and some time in Liam McCormick’s office before setting up her own practice in Derry in 1971, Caroline talked us through some project presentation boards that she had displayed along the side of the room. Collette Beattie, Conservation Officer for Donegal County Council, then talked very passionately and shared photos about a project she and Caroline have been worked on, painstakingly preserving the Fahan old church (a national monument), stone by stone, removing trees one by one, inserting discrete structural ties, careful to retain the appearance of a ruin. She said Caroline was always the first to the top of a spire!  We introduced ourselves around the table, and some shared memories and stories of Caroline, such as Mick McCafferty who said he had followed her work for a long time, and ‘accused’ her of introducing him to sailing, now his passion!  RSUA President Joan McCoy said Caroline Dickson was the first architect, never mind female architect, she ever heard of, when her father was working as a plumbing contractor in Derry in her youth.  An honest and open conversation around changes in architectural practice over time, female architects, procurement, architecture in Derry and the value of architects sharing resources and knowledge with each other, followed. Caroline is a quietly remarkable architect with a rich and diverse portfolio of buildings spanning her award-winning career, and she’s still going strong! Many thanks to Caroline and the Foyle Civic Trust for their hospitality.