Danish engineer Ove Arup exhibition opens at V&A
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London’s V&A Museum is holding its first ever engineering season this summer, including a retrospective of Danish engineer Ove Arup.

Ove Arup
Above: Ove Arup

The V&A said that it hoped to “highlight the importance of engineering in our daily lives and consider engineers as the unsung heroes of design, who play a vital and creative role in the creation of our built environment”.

The season will be launched by a newly commissioned installation in the V&A garden by experimental architect Achim Menges of the University of Stuttgart, with Moritz Dörstelmann, structural engineer Jan Knippers and climate engineer Thomas Auer. Their first ever public commission in the UK, Elytra Filament Pavilion will be an undulating canopy of tightly-woven carbon fibre cells manufactured and installed in situ using a Kuka robot. The structure will grow over the course of the season in response to data on structural behaviour and patterns of inhabitation of the garden that will be captured by real-time sensors in its canopy fibres.

The work and legacy of Ove Arup will be the subject of Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design.  The V&A describes him as “the most significant engineer of the 20th century” and credits him with “pioneering a multidisciplinary approach to design that has defined the way engineering is understood and practiced today”.

Ove Arup himself died in 1988 but the exhibition will also showcase recent work by the firm that he founded, from major infrastructure projects like Crossrail and novel technologies for acoustics and crowd flow analysis, to engineering solutions for open source housing design.  It will include previously unseen prototypes, models, archival material, drawings, film and photography, as well as new displays featuring animations, simulations and virtual reality.

V&A director Martin Roth said: “We may not know it, but engineers organise the world we live in. Our lives are reliant on visible and invisible systems conceived, built, run or facilitated by the many disciplines of contemporary engineering. The V&A engineering season is a clear statement in our renewed interest in industrial design and the engineer. It builds on our industrial design heritage and reflects the crucial role of engineering in the development of the V&A. Through collaborating with pioneering engineers and architects, such as Achim Menges and progressive consultancies such as Arup, the season will celebrate the wonder and importance of engineering in our lives.”

Achim Menges said: “Remember the impact that the first industrial revolution here in England had on architecture, as strikingly expressed in the Victorian Greenhouse? With Elytra Filament Pavilion, we aim to offer a glimpse of the transformative power of the fourth industrial revolution currently underway, and the way it again challenges established modes of design, engineering and making. Built entirely from robotically produced fibrous systems, the Pavilion will intensify the visitor’s experience of the V&A’s Garden by providing a differentiated and evolving space. Its intricate, filament canopy is at the same time architectural envelope, load-bearing structure and environmental filter, which will extend and transform over time.”

The Elytra Filament Pavilion will be on display in the John Madejski Garden from 18th May to 6th November 2016. Admission is free.

The exhibition Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design runs from 18th June to 6th November 2016. Tickets (£7) will go on sale in April 2016 and are available atvam.ac.uk/engineeringseason