‘Engineering the World’ is the first major retrospective of Ove Arup’s work. Held at the V&A in London until 6th November this year, it is an essential exhibition for anyone interested in the world of design. It is part of the museum’s ‘Engineering Season’ that celebrates the ‘unsung heroes’ of design that create and shape the built world.
Ove Arup (1895-1988) was the most influential engineer of the 20th century and the pioneer of a multidisciplinary approach to design that has defined the way engineering is understood and practiced today. This exhibition focuses on the design philosophy of Ove Arup, revealing his ideas and includes well known projects such as Sydney Opera House alongside unseen archive materials and recent projects by Arup.
The importance of Ove Arup cannot be overstated; he made possible the visions of architects that now shape our world. He is arguably the greatest civil engineer of the 20th Century. The Sydney Opera House, once dubbed the ‘unbuildable building’, The Pompidou Centre, with its colourful ‘inside-out’ design, and the iconic Penguin Pool at London zoo are just three of the projects for which Arup is well known.
More than this, the exhibition invites you to explore the philosophy behind his work, which to me is as fascinating as the finished buildings. A collection of drawings, diagrams, and endless doodles, demonstrate Arup’s relentless creativity, and reveal a playful nature. He was a philosopher and an engineer, and part of the Modernist movement. Friends with Le Corbusier and close to the avant-gardists, he was right at the cutting edge of contemporary life. His philosophy of Total Design was revolutionary then, as it embraced extensive collaboration and new technologies. Arup today continues with this ethos, and the exhibition shows some very exciting developments. The Solar Leaf porotypes, for example, show a future where buildings can become producers of energy, rather than merely users of energy. The exhibition packs a powerful punch in a small space, and is absolutely worth a visit.
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