Engineering the world, a celebration of Ove Arup

A new exhibition at the V&A is the first major retrospective of Ove Arup (1895-1988), the most influential engineer of the 20th century. It is a small exhibition which, as part of the engineering season, is full of interest and you need time to take everything in. It is a proper celebration of what Arup achieved in his life, and really gives a flavour of the man, with a selection of witty drawings and joke invitations shown alongside brilliant achievements. Arup’s philosophy was of Total Design, which for him meant all the professions were working together right from the start. So engineers like Arup worked on projects hand-in-hand with architects and designers.

IMG_9524Classic Arup structures like the penguin enclosure at London Zoo, one of his early works, feature alongside unseen archival materials for larger projects like the Sydney Opera House. The exhibition moves on to recent prototypes and digital animations by the company he created, Arup, the now global engineering consultancy. One of these new ideas is an amazing wall filled with green chlorella microorganisms (pic left) which absorb the sun’s energy and are suspended in a green watery world, fed and occasionally stirred up by giant bubbles. Senior architect at Arup, Martin Pauli. “In Hamburg, where we implemented the facade system, the 2.5 metres high panels are integrated with the building services system and they supply the heat for the building, we take the carbon from the gas boiler to feed the algae so it is a closed root system we are now developing the next generation which is also capable of regenerating grey water. So the grey water contains a variety of nutrients which we can use to feed the algae.” People in the Hamburg building say they don’t just like the colour but they like the sounds of the bubbles. It is quite relaxing just to stand there. The outer skin of buildings and how they can be used is something Arup will be working on in the coming years.

Engineering the world, from Saturday 18th June – 6th November. Tickets £7 from here … engineering-the-world and there is a curator talks which will probably be really interesting on Friday 18th June at 11am – 12pm. More about arup here … arup.com

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