Ove Arup Key Speech

By 1970, Arup (then Ove Arup & Partners) was made up of several independent practices, spread across the world. As the 1960s drew to a close and the leaders of the various original Arup practices started to retire, it was clear there was a danger that the firm’s ethos might become diluted. There was still a collective desire to continue working together, so this felt like the right moment for Ove Arup to reflect on the firm’s nature, its values and its future.

On 9 July in Winchester, Ove delivered his ‘key speech’ to all his partners from the various practices. In this speech Ove set out the aims of our firm and, in his own distinctive and philosophical way, identified the principles by which they might be achieved.

From time to time we have asked ourselves whether what he said in 1970 remains valid for us today. Inevitably, some specifics about the firm’s organisation and individuals’ roles within it, have changed over the years. It’s also true that some of his language reflects the cultural norms of a man born in 1895, writing in 1970. But when we look beyond these historical details, we believe that continuing to pursue the aims set out in the Key Speech helps us shape a better world.

Today, the Key Speech is required reading for each person who joins Arup and is valuable to anyone who wants to understand what continues to motivate us, both as individuals and as an organisation.