Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design, V&A, London

Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design, V&A, London

The V&A presents a collection of the most significant work by Ove Arup (1895-1988), as well as previously unseen photographs, models, drawings and prototypes in the first ever retrospective of the philosopher-engineer. Through the development of his original philosophy of Total Design, Arup redefined the working norms for architects, designers and engineers, and claimed to: “join all the professions right from the start.”

The exhibition, staged in conjunction with Arup’s eponymous engineering and design consultancy, reveals the innovative design processes behind some of Arup’s most recognisable work – buildings such as the Sydney Opera House and the Centre Pompidou. Additionally, it explores the influence of Arup’s move to London and encounters with architectural theorists such as Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier had on his work and understanding of modern engineering practice.

With a background in philosophy, Arup developed a highly imaginative sense of design which inspired him to revolutionise the fields of civil and structural engineering. The exhibition will present a selection of Arup’s ground-breaking projects, as well as work undertaken by Arup worldwide today, including a recreation of an Arup SoundLab – an innovative technology for acoustic studies, and view of many recent engineering solutions by Arup such as the SolarLeaf, a system that uses microalgae to generate renewable energy.

Structured to show the development of Arup’s Total Design Philosophy, the exhibition follows rups early career during the Modernist design movement, and traces his life, highlighting the effect of social, technological and political change upon his work. Ove Arup’s pioneering philosophy for design is presented as the most significant part of his legacy, and a theory which has changed the face of engineering for good.

Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design, V&A, London, open until 6 November 2016. For more information, visit

1. Ove Arup, SolarLeaf bio-reactive algae façade. Glasstatik BIQ Hamburg, 2013. Credit line: © ColtArupSCC