UNITED KINGDOM - For London-based Arup Associates the biggest challenge in the coming years is to unite high architecture and sustainability.
However special Arup Associates may be within the whole organization, it cannot escape the long shadow of tradition and fame. This shadow begins with the eponymous founder, Ove Arup. Ever since his collaboration with Berthold Lubetkin on the elegant, super-thin ramps of the Penguin Pool at London Zoo, Arup, and by extension the engineering firm he founded in 1946, has been regarded as the first choice for daring, innovative and spectacular constructions. The Arup Group has not only produced celebrities in its own area of expertise, such as Arup himself, Peter Rice and Cecil Balmond, but has also collaborated with a well nigh endless succession of star architects, and has been and continues to be involved in a large number of world-famous buildings, from the Sydney Opera House to the CCTV headquarters in Beijing. Being surrounded by this enormous professional organization is a blessing in that it enables Arup Associates to call on the best specialists and consultants in every field, from structural engineering to psychology. But this environment, together with the history of the architectural practice that Arup founded in 1963 together with Philip Dowson, can also be something a burden.
If Arup Associates is not wholly identified with the Arup Group, it is at the very least branded as an institution, which carries the automatic presumption that institutions cannot be innovative. As a result, Arup Associates is not generally perceived as one of the new kids on the block, even though its new board, which took over the reins eighteen months ago, and the nature of their work, might well be considered grounds for doing so.