Behind the B: Courtnay Ives

We sit down with senior architect, Courtnay Ives, to talk about her projects and the advice she would give to people wanting a career in conservation architecture.

Headshot of Courtnay Ives, woman with brown hair and a white t-shirt, smiling at the camera.
Senior architect, Courtnay Ives

Courtnay joined Buttress in the autumn 2022. 

Recently, she became a RIBA-accredited conservation architect and promoted to senior architect.

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in architecture?

My interest in art and history during school naturally led me toward a career in architecture and design. I was fascinated by how different styles of architecture reveal the essence of a place, and that fascination has only grown over time.

While studying at the Manchester School of Architecture, I developed a strong affinity for working with existing buildings rather than starting with a blank canvas. I love the 'jigsaw puzzle' challenge of navigating the constraints and opportunities within an existing structure.

After graduating, I was fortunate to join a small, conservation-minded practice where I gained extensive experience across the RIBA work stages and in historical building consultancy. This role provided me with invaluable knowledge, especially in working with ecclesiastical buildings. I grew to appreciate the strong sense of community surrounding parish churches and their role in serving local people. When we undertake work on a church, we focus on strengthening these community ties and enhancing the church's role as a focal point in the area.

When we undertake work on a church, we focus on strengthening these community ties and enhancing the church's role as a focal point in the area.
Courtnay Ives

Can you tell me about a favourite building or place and why? 

The Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, is one of my favourites. My first visit was on a school trip for an arts excursion to London, and it left a lasting impression on me. I'm fascinated by how this building has evolved over time. Originally, it was Sir John Soane’s (1753-1837) home, which he designed to showcase the artworks and architectural artefacts he collected throughout his life.

Street view of buildings. Four storeys. The central block is a white colour which has large arch windows at first floor.
Sir John Soames Museum

Can you talk to us about a current project? 

I'm fortunate to be working with Edward Kepczyk and Buttress’ Faith team on the inspection of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral's fabric so early in my career. As the cathedral is a significant ecclesiastical landmark, this is a dream project for me, especially as my postgraduate thesis focused on the conservation of concrete in post-war buildings. 

I'm also involved in the repair and reinstatement of the Grade I listed All Saints Church in Mackworth. The church suffered extensive damage from a fire in December 2020, which destroyed the roof and caused widespread structural and interior damage to this historic building, parts of which date back to the 14th century.

Currently, Phase II is underway, with my colleague Steve Welsh overseeing the building envelope repairs. I am the project architect for Phase III, focusing on internal reinstatement. One of the most exciting aspects of this project is the restoration of the stained-glass windows. We are in the early stages of planning, but we intend to hold workshops with stained glass artists and consult with stakeholders to help shape the design of these.

Exterior of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, a grey and white triangular building
A gutted church. It has no roof and just a few remains internally.

You’ve been certified recently as a RIBA-accredited conservation architect – can you tell us a bit more about what this has involved?

Becoming a RIBA-accredited conservation architect is a proud milestone for me, marking the culmination of all the experience I've gained since the start of my career. From my university days, I always aspired to achieve this, and reaching this goal is incredibly fulfilling. Having this objective in mind early on allowed me to build a strong portfolio of case studies required for the accreditation. Joining Buttress has been instrumental in this journey, acting as a catalyst and focusing my efforts on achieving this certification.

What advice would you give a young person wanting a career in architecture?

Always keep an eye out for work experience opportunities and events that spark your interest. These chances might not always be advertised, so take the initiative to research areas that appeal to you.

For inspiration, follow the shortlisted projects and winners of awards like the RIBA Awards or the Civic Trust Awards. If possible, visit these projects to see them first hand.

What do you enjoy most about working at Buttress?  

The culture in terms of community, it’s lovely having different pockets of teams that we can look to for other areas of expertise.  I’ve just done the Buttress family hike last Sunday and it shows how well we all work together that we’re keen to see each other at the weekend to meet up and do a hike.

Image taken from the ground looking up at the front facade of the church. It is a very grey concrete like facade which contrasts with the blue sky. There are lines working vertically which form part of a triangle shape which decorate the facade.  There is an indented circle in the
Grundtvig’s Church, Copenhagen

What do you do in your spare time?

I also like to go on rural walks in my spare time and enjoy resistance training and bouldering at my local climbing centre.  I am also a trustee of the Valley Heritage Building Trust.