For the V&A’s retrospective of the work of pioneering engineer Ove Arup, Zak Group and architectural firm Dyvik Kahlen Architects collaborated on the design of a workshop-like environment that envelops the historic gallery in steel, and presents key works from the engineer’s multifarious practice. Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design is the first major retrospective of Ove Arup’s multidisciplinary work, and includes projects such as Berthed Lubetkin’s Penguin Pool at London Zoo, Richard Rogers & Renzo Piano’s Centre Pompidou and Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House.
Arup was an early advocate of total design, and “joining all the professions right from the start”. In Zak Group and Dyvik Kahlen Architects’ exhibition design the steel grid structure provides a controlled, flexible frame for Arup’s varied oeuvre; with graphics, photography, models and virtual reality environments sat over multiple levels. Transparency, both in terms of vantage and process is a key element to both the exhibition design and Arup’s work; with vitrines, screens and projections allowing the audience to constantly view the work in the context of the “whole” – or “total” design.
Engineering the World highlights the often unacknowledged role of engineering in everyday life, and Zak Group and Dyvik Kahlen Architects’ structural and graphic intervention on the historic gallery space lends a sense of the speculative optimism of Arup’s work, due to the structure’s retro futuristic, almost Meccano-esque aesthetic. The exhibition highlights the often un-credited creativity integral to engineering, the doodles, nonsense rhymes and experiments without which such feats of invention would be impossible.
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