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.
Fifty years later, we continue to treasure these aims, looking to them for guidance as we face new challenges. We are inspired by the speech’s honest search for answers to the question of what work is for, what work we should pursue, and how we should best work together.
Some comments in the speech are a reminder of a different time. Ove’s remark about the attractiveness of secretaries, for example, and the social class structures that he takes as a given are reminders of inequities once widely considered to be acceptable. Rather than edit away these comments, or dismiss them as outdated and inconsequential, we instead take this opportunity to reckon with our past, to learn and to actively shape a more diverse and inclusive firm. This, too, is forecast in Ove’s 1970 vision.