About this talk

Running time: 25 minutes

Note: this is the second of a two part talk. Part one can be found here: The Nature Of Engineering: Part 1.

The late Ted Happold, born in 1930, read geology at Leeds University. Then, after several years of on-site building experience, he returned to the University to study engineering. In 1957, he joined Ove Arup & Partners, engineers, but left for a spell in New York with Severud Elstad & Krueger. Back with Arup in 1961, he rose to become by 1967 Executive Partner of one of the three structural divisions.

In 1971 Happold left Arup's and set up his own partnership named Buro Happold and based in Bath. This was because he had been offered a new Chair of Building Engineering at Bath University and the opportunity to develop a joint school of architecture and engineering. As he had for long been involved in education for the building industry, he happily accepted. The course was such a success that it added construction studies to the curriculum. He believes strongly that the building industry would be improved by such an amalgam of studies.

Happold has played a leading role in many of the organisations concerned with structural matters both in the UK and internationally, and he is someone who really understands what architecture and design are about, for which reason no doubt he was elected a Royal Designer for Industry in Britain in 1983.

The Institution of Structural Engineers, the professional body of which he was a member, several times honoured him with their awards and in 1986 voted him President.

While both at Arup's, and later under his own name, Happold has collaborated with very many outstanding architects including Richard Rogers (see Genesis Of The New Lloyd's Underwriting Room and People Places) to whom he had proposed that they enter the competition for the Pompidou Centre, joined by Renzo Piano (see Culturalising Today's Technology and New York Times Building & The Shard) and Peter Rice (see Exploring The Boundaries Of Design).

Happold has always worked closely with Frei Otto (see Self-Designing Structures), researching in the field of long-span structures, and they have carried out many seminal projects together in various parts of the world for which they have received awards.

Structural engineering is primarily concerned with learning from nature about the forces of action, of wind or of people. It's also to do with the ecology, the characteristics of the available materials and the creative use made of them. All this Happold discusses at some length, illustrated by work in which he has been involved.

The idea of designing like nature, he says, is probably our best chance of ensuring that what we do is compatible with nature.

Please note that a transcript of this talk is available - please contact us for further details.

Ted Happold


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