Ove Arup and the legacy of Total Design


from Connectivity

Total Design enables ‘systems thinking’, the capacity to tackle complex, large-scale issues. In this Ove’s philosophy has prepared us to move far beyond traditional engineering. When you look at challenges like climate change, or the move towards circular, more sustainable forms of production, the need for big-picture thinking is clear. Systems thinking is messy, there are no straight lines anywhere, so you need a working culture where people are confident to find insights and make decisions in complex, evolving contexts when you can’t clearly see the whole solution. It’s an approach Total Design is temperamentally and intellectually well suited to.

The range of disciplines our people practise has grown significantly. Ove might be surprised by an engineering firm that also has expertise in planning and policy. But if engineering is typically seen as a problem-solving discipline, Total Design makes it much more than that as we progress from rigorous first principles, through creativity and design, before finally meeting the requirements of regulations and codes that govern the world we operate in.

For Ove, Total Design was an organising principle that would create solutions that were a mixture of art and engineering, investigating what is possible while delivering things that work. That’s an idea that continues to animate Arup as a firm today: the mastery of technical expertise combined with the power of creative thought. For us, the deeper our expertise, the wider our creativity can be.


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