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Arup Appointment, United Kingdom

Monday 06 Apr 2009

Top Gun...

Arup Appointment by Arup in United Kingdom
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Frivolities of the past cannot continue, says new Arup Chairman, Philip Dilley 

In a prelude to our Exclusive Film with Philip Dilley, WAN talks with the man who will captain the firm through the choppy waters of the financial crisis...

Arup is experiencing a transition. As with most organisations in the current circumstances the firm has been forced to make internal changes, and regrettably to lay off 400 UK staff, to help the company pull through the recession. But not all changes are recession driven.

Walking into the Arup offices at 8 Fitzroy Street, the drumming of pneumatic drills and beating of hammers echoes all around where more Arup offices are completing, a construction hub being born. Stepping inside number 8, which itself only completed four months ago, Arup’s objectives are clearly evidenced by flat screens showcasing their design achievements and art works engineered by the firm proudly on display in the foyer – here, design is king.

Newly appointed Chairman, Philip Dilley, is adamant that this mantra be key to the success of Arup. “Designing a clever management system is as valuable as designing a beautiful art museum,” he says with conviction, enforcing the importance of all disciplines within the firm.

Dilley is an Arup man through and through, having joined the company as a graduate engineer more than thirty years ago in the days before CAD, email or even faxes. In 1993 he became Director of Ove Arup & Partners following his successful win of the £700million Kansai International Airport in 1989 and by 2004 he was appointed as Head of Arup’s Europe and Middle East Region where he was responsible for delivering over 50% of the firm’s global turnover. As with the firm as a whole, Dilley has always embraced the multidisciplinary approach to projects.

“The relationship between architects and engineers has evolved enormously in my 30 years of professional practise,” said Dilley. “In Arup it has always existed as a collaborative relationship, it was the mantra of Arup himself, he pushed this idea that collaboration would lead to a better product. I personally grew up and have always worked in a multi-disciplinary environment so I have very rarely done projects where I am just the structural engineer, I’ve had a broader role and I can’t not think laterally.”

However, whilst maintaining a close relationship with architects and promoting the importance of multi-disciplinary practise, Dilley is not shy of giving a word of warning to the architecture profession:

“One thing that has slightly disappointed me in the broad architectural world of late, and I think the difficult financial situation we all find ourselves in is going to improve this, is that I think some architecture became quite frivolous, it was doing things that were slightly crazy, just because we could.

“Now, my whole life has been being friends with architects and I’m good at helping them achieve their dreams and helping us together achieve our dreams but for me there has to be a reason for wanting to go in a particular direction which doesn’t have to be methodically justified but I do think there have been some crazy examples of things that are not at all clever and those I hope the current circumstances will disallow.”

So frivolity is out, according to Dilley, but what the future does hold is unforeseen, WAN asked him what changes we could expect from our habitat in 30 years time: "Goodness, 30 years is a very long time isn’t it. You know, Google is only ten years old so 11 years ago it didn’t exist, and I think that’s amazing so I think what’s going to exist that doesn’t exist in ten years time is not for me to predict.

"But, what I am sure about is that buildings will exist in the form that we understand them, I don’t believe that we’ll be going around with headsets on or having this meeting without meeting as it were, there will be some of that, I’m absolutely sure, but human contact and personal contact matters.”

Meet Philip Dilley next week as we screen our Exclusive Film interview with Arup's latest Top Gun.


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