Ian Duff (1933-2016): an appreciation

Architect on Ilac Centre and George’s Quay was also an avid cricket and squash player

Ian Duff: “Remembered not only for his vision and imagination, but for his kindness, gentleness, and consideration.”

Ian Duff: “Remembered not only for his vision and imagination, but for his kindness, gentleness, and consideration.”

 

Well-known architect Ian George Kidd Duff, who was born in Rathmines in 1933 and died last October, was an only child whose memories of Emergency-era Ireland were sweeter than most. His father worked as a food scientist for Willwood (Nestle). So Ian’s war-restricted years were buoyed by free chocolate bars, which laid the foundations for a lifelong sweet tooth.

In 1940s and 50s Dublin, cricket was to schools and clubs what rugby is now, and Ian helped his team at Leinster Cricket Club bring home the Leinster Senior Cup in 1955, 1958 and 1968. He also played on St Mary’s College’s winning team in the Leinster Schools Junior Cup in 1945 – on his 12th birthday. Ian was also an avid squash player and spearheaded efforts to start a squash club at LCC; in 1969 he designed and oversaw the building of the club’s first courts.

A last-minute change of mind during registration at UCD resulted in a degree in architecture, following which Ian “got on the boat” for London. He returned after three years to work for Don O’Neill Flanagan in Waterford. Here Ian met his wife Hilda Power; in 1963 they settled in Dublin and Ian began working for renowned architect Andy Devane.

After a stint at McCormack & Keane Architects, he spent seven years at Irish Life, where he was responsible for overseeing the design elements of its international property portfolio. He later helped set up the property company Dunkeld Holdings.

In 1977 Ian joined David Keane and Noel Murphy to create Keane Murphy Duff Architects (later KMD Architecture), where he was managing director until his retirement in 1999. Early on, religious institutions formed a large part of the new firm’s client base, but as Ireland began to bloom, so shopping centres, hotels and office blocks were commissioned.

Diverse portfolio

Ian was a practical architect, respected for his skill in cutting through jargon and identifying fundamentals. While his portfolio was diverse, he is best known for the design development of the Ilac Centre (the first shopping centre in Dublin City) and for designing the imposing landmark offices of George’s Quay, which changed the skyline of Dublin’s south quays.

Ian is remembered not only for his vision and imagination, but for his kindness, gentleness, and consideration. Not many death notices by colleagues state of a person that “he was a joy to work with”.

He is survived by his wife, Hilda, four daughters, and 10 grandchildren.