Venerable British architecture firm Dixon Jones closes its doors

A Tremendous Run

Venerable British architecture firm Dixon Jones closes its doors

London’s Royal Opera House (aka Covent Garden) following a major reconstruction by Dixon Jones. (Fred Romero/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Dixon Jones, the London-based architectural practice founded by Jeremy Dixon and Edward Jones in 1989, permanently ceased operations at the end of last month. As reported by The Architects’ Journal, an industry-wide slowdown in new work prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as an unclear path to succession (Dixon and Jones are both in their 80s), contributed to the firm’s closure.

“A number of things have happened in the past six months which have conspired to make this a very unhappy period, Jones elaborated to the Journal. “For three months we’ve been facing closure and it occurred at the end of September.”

While Dixon and Jones have kept a decidedly less conspicuous profile than title-holding compatriots such as Norman Foster, Nicholas Grimshaw, and (the recently retired) Richard Rogers, their completed work has left a lasting impact throughout London and beyond with major cultural and civic projects including the much-lauded reconstruction of (the third) Royal Opera House (1999), the Ondaatje Wing, an extension of the National Portrait Gallery (2000); the Darwin College Study Centre at the University of Cambridge (1994); a master plan for the over 200-year-old neoclassical palace, Somerset House, in London (2001); a pedestrian access-boosting master plan for Exhibition Road in Kensington, London (2011), and Kings Place, a prominent and multifaceted commercial/cultural development in Kings Cross that’s home to concerts halls, galleries, and offices, including the headquarters of The Guardian.

The firm had several in-progress projects at the time of the closure including the Olympic Steps at Wembley Park. Per AJ, these projects will continue to be overseen by the respective project architects from the firm.

a school at oxford university designed by Dixon Jones
Said Business School at Oxford University, designed by Dixon Jones. (Richard/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

While Dixon and Jones didn’t formally join together until the late 1980s to form their eponymous firm while working on the Royal Opera House project, the two have been acquaintances since the late 1950s, while both were studying, a year apart, at the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA) in London. They also collaborated professionally on a small handful of projects in the decades before establishing the firm. In the years prior to the fruitful Dixon Jones era, Dixon had had a longtime working relationship with his (now former) wife Fenella (Clemens) Dixon, also an AA graduate, on London commissions, largely public housing-related. Their work together was featured in a 2018 exhibition at London’s Soane Museum titled The Return of the Past: Postmodernism in British Architecture.

Jones, who is married to Canadian architect Margot Griffin, similarly worked in and around London while in private practice but also went on to establish a Toronto-based office. His most well-known completed Canadian work is the postmodernist Mississauga Civic Center, a project completed with Michael Kirkland in the Toronto-neighboring city of the same name. With his wife, Jones also designed a stunning (and rentable) family vacation retreat dubbed Villa Jones in the southeastern French province of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. First published in 1983, Jones’s Guide to the Architecture of London, written with Christopher Woodward, is a longtime staple for building-spotters in the British capital.

a glassy modern office building and arts center in london
Kings Place, London, designed by Dixon Jones. (Panhard/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0)

According to their biographies on the firm website, both Dixon and Jones have also taught extensively (this is particularly true of Jones, who has served as a visiting professor of architecture at a number of American universities), served as RIBA external examiners, and twice exhibited at the Venice Biennale. Together as Dixon Jones, the duo has received numerous RIBA Regional Awards along with other honors.

In a statement shared by the Journal, architects John Tuomey and Sheila O’Donnell of celebrated Irish firm O’ Donnell + Tuomey referred to Dixon and Jones as the “very embodiment of the expectation that architects, through intellectual effort and sustained dedication to their craft, can contribute to the shape of society and to the civic good.”