Transport, engineering and architecture: Arups apotheosized

Transport, engineering and architecture: Arups apotheosized – Book Review

Brian Richards

By Hugh Collis. London: Laurence King Publishing. 2003. [pounds sterling]50

This beautifully illustrated book written by one of Arups’ staff, the late Hugh Collis, covers their role in the field of transport engineering and architecture. A concise description of the historical relationship between engineering and architecture is followed by chapters on airports, railways, bridges and special projects finished between 1987 and 2002. Three outstanding schemes are omitted. There is no reference to Arups’ role as conceptual designers with Renzo Piano at the Kansai airport with Peter Rice (AR November 1994) although there is a photograph. Nor to the roofs of the Lille TGV station of 1991 and the one over the Chur bus/rail station of 1988, again by Peter Rice and in association with the French firm of RFR. Size is what this book is mostly about. Projects show Arups’ skill in dealing with more than structures but also services and management of giant projects. The small projects are footbridges and extensive coverage of the Hanover tram stops by Despang Architects (which rightly won an AR Emerging Architects Award in 1999), although it is hard to see where Arups contributed. Notable among footbridges is Hodder Associates’ elegant glazed link between two Manchester stores (AR June 2000) and Foster and Caro’s Millennium Thames footbridge (AR April 2000) with a very frank description of the wobble problems and how they were solved.

On railways, surprisingly no mention is made of Ian Ritchie’s fine Bermondsey station on the Jubilee Line with its important structure. Arups’ inspired alternative route for the Channel Rail Link from Ashford into London is discussed, though the stations shown at Ebbsfleet and Stratford, not credited to any architect, appear to be without interest. Shown also is the astonishing station built for Sydney Olympics capable of handling 55 000 passengers an hour–though the architects Hassell & Partners are not credited.

Really a page of credits hardly does justice to a book which covers so much ground. Perhaps the names of the lead engineers would have helped, together with short pieces from some of the architects and their role with Arups. This is a book to be placed in all of Arups’ reception areas rather than on the shelves of an architectural library.

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