50 Years of Innovation

Arup was founded in 1946 by Ove Arup, a gifted engineer-philosopher with an original and restless mind.  He was born in Jesmond, Newcastle in 1895 to the Danish veterinary surgeon Jens Simon Johannes Arup and his Norwegian wife Mathilde Bolette Nyquist. Arup attended the Sorø Academy in Denmark—a boarding school with many influences from Dr Thomas Arnold of the Rugby School in the UK.

In 1913, he began studying philosophy at Copenhagen University and in 1918 enrolled for an engineering degree at the Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen, specialising in reinforced concrete. He completed his studies in 1922. In 1946, Ove created a team of Civil and Structural Engineering consultants.

Arup remains an independent firm, owned in trust for its members, still guided by its founder’s spirit and principles. The team chooses work where they can make a real difference in the world, stretch the boundaries of what is possible, delight clients and achieve socially valuable outcomes.

Arup was founded on the belief that the built environment can change people’s lives for the better. Every day, everywhere, they strive to meet this aim – helping clients solve their biggest challenges by harnessing diverse skills and constantly expanding what’s technically possible.

Arup has always pioneered the use of the most advanced technologies. To them, technology is a game-changer and not just making what we have better


Kingsgate Footbridge – Durham

The award-winning Kingsgate Bridge was designed by Sir Ove Arup and constructed by Holst Engineering in 1963. The bridge links Durham Cathedral and Durham University Colleges on the peninsula to New Elvet. Founder Ove Arup considered the project to be his finest piece of work as well as his last.

After meeting with Durham University, Arup suggested an alternative to the proposed low level short span bridge. His final bridge design was not only sensitive to the surrounding environment, but took advantage of the height available, while avoiding the use of long flights of stairs.

He planned every detail, including the unusual way it was constructed. This allowed the bridge to be built in two halves, one on each river bank, eliminating the need for scaffolding in the river.

The halves were then rotated on their piers into their final position using manual winches. The point where the halves meet is marked by a unique bronze joint to accommodate the expansion of the bridge in warm weather.

Kingsgate stands as a striking example of Ove Arup’s vision for ‘total design’, considering many factors, such as aesthetics, efficient design, functionality, safe construction, innovation and cost, to produce the final optimal solution.

In 1965, the bridge was the winner of the Civic Trust Award and in 1993 was awarded the Concrete Society’s Certificate of Outstanding Performance. The bridge is a Grade I Listed structure.

Kingsgate Footbridge, Durham


The Launch – Sunderland

Arup has always pioneered the use of the most advanced technologies. To them, technology is a game-changer and not just making what we have better.

When founder Ove Arup pioneered Total Design, his vision was to bring together different disciplines to ensure the best possible integrated solution. Arup was one of the first to use large scale computing to develop the structure of the iconic Sydney Opera House ‘shells’ in the 1960s. This fundamental belief has been an integral part of the design success of ‘The Launch’ project. The diverse Arup team comprises Edable Architecture, Gardiner and Theobald, Oobe, Gareth Hudson, Kathryn Hodgkinson and Wonderstuff working seamlessly with Siglion.

The design takes inspiration from the moment a ship is launched by the tradition of breaking a bottle of Champagne on the hull. ‘The gathering of the crowd, the smashing of the champagne bottle, the release of the ship, the anticipation, cheers and surge of water......’

This inspiration led to the proposal of a giant illuminated pendulum that could be released at set times or by the press of a button that evoked the sense of release, launch and celebration. This could also ‘remember’ the historic sense of movement on the site; the Lambton drops, and could also act as a clock or ‘heart-beat’.

The swing of the pendulum takes inspiration from another Arup design, the Falkirk Wheel. The approach focused on using simple components but when combined creates an innovative and energy efficient solution. The pendulum comprises of a clad structure, a lighting disc on one end and a counterbalance on the other end. The axle of the pendulum is supported by two cantilevering trusses of the steel tower structure.

Navigate the 3D model of the The Launch Project using the interactive display above

(3D technology powered by Autodesk Forge)

The pendulum is parked in a horizontal position. In this state the arm is latched close to the disc and water (treated with anti-freeze) is stored in a bladder tank in the middle of lighting disc. After release the pendulum oscillates under gravity until it comes to rest. When the pendulum stops in a vertical position, the water from the disc is pumped up into another tank in the counterbalance resulting in a torque that raises the pendulum back into the parked position. In summary, the ‘return movement’ is achieved through simply moving the balancing point using water.

The scale and construction of the pendulum is also a civic piece of engineering that is felt to be appropriate to Sunderland.

To support the pendulum, the design incorporates a distinctive structure that evokes a sense of ship building and manufacture, a ‘crane-like’ structure that can be walked out onto at the Vaux site level. Viewing platforms are proposed within this structure, which give visitors the opportunity to view the Keel Line and the river / bridges. In addition to this, due to the opaque nature of the material used, these views can be appreciated when walking through the structure and down the stairs, much like the scaffolding used during ship construction.

The release of the ship, the anticipation, cheers and surge of water...


About the #FutureBuildings exhibition

Create your own building of the future and try out technologies that are breaking the boundaries of what’s possible in construction. Our Future Buildings exhibition runs from 22nd June to 9th September as part of the Great Exhibition of the North. 

Find out more

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