Collected essays from Ove Arup

Ove Arup, he of the seemingly ubiquitous Arup engineers, wrote a series of essays throughout his life, which have been bundled up to make Ove Arup: Philosophy of design.

Ove Arup
Ove Arup

Arup wrote the essays between 1942 and 1981, which approach engineering through a broad design philosophy.

His career spanned five decades, during which time he learnt how ‘the universality of quality, unity, delight, value, collaboration, and the influence of our environment continue to be pertinent in any creative area,’

Indeed this book, and the essays within it – 35 selected from a library of 300 – are pitched at a broad audience of ‘engineers, architects, designers and scholars’.

Arup’s career took in many engineering feats with design at their heart: The Penguin Pool at London Zoo (1934) and the Elephant Enclosure (1935); Coventry Cathedral (1962) and later the Sydney Opera House (1972).

Arup at London Zoo's Penguin Pool
Arup at London Zoo’s Penguin Pool

Essays include Teams For Total Design (1968), a celebration of structural engineering, with what would now be termed a human-centred design approach and collabrative know-how – or what Arup calls ‘total design… the work of many people, each contributing his particular knowledge.’

Meanwhile, Future Problems Facing The Designer (1971) is – rather then a gloomy prophesy – a strong definition for the main principles of design and includes a ‘formula for excellence’ and how to nail, ‘brief, design and execution’.

The design of the book itself – by Fraser Muggeridge Studio – is quite austere and academic, but Arup doesn’t strike me as a frivolous man, so this seems quite appropriate. A Nietzsche quote, and some equations pop up within, but its the binding, a bamberger kaliko German cloth cover, the Munken Lynx 120g paper stock and a Graphik Font, which give it this looks and feel.

Ove Arup: Philosphy of Design is edited by Nigel Tonk, priced £24.99, printed in hardback and published by Prestel. 

Latest articles