Ian Charles Ironside was born in Hastings, Michigan, in February 1916. He attended Albion College from 1934-1935 and then transferred to the University of Michigan to complete his architectural studies. After receiving his degree in architecture in 1939 Ironside accepted a draftsman position with the Sun Oil Company. Thereafter he worked for the firm of Cooper & Cooper in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Federal Public Housing Authority before entering the United States Army in 1942. After his discharge in 1946 Ironside joined the Warren Holmes Company as an associate in 1953, and became a partner in 1956.