Kenneth Powell’s timely study of Arup Associates harks back to a golden age of teamworking


Arup Associates, Historic England, 162pp, £30

Given that the global giant Arup Group has recently announced the demise of the ‘Arup Associates’ name in favour of the more corporate ‘Arup architecture’, Kenneth Powell’s new book takes on a historic resonance. Established by engineer Ove Arup to pursue his ideal of ‘total’ design through multidisciplinary teamwork, with a ready supply of work in the post-war era of reconstruction and the Welfare State, the first recruits were Bob Hobbs, Philip Dowson, Francis Pym and Derek Sugden. This precociously talented team quickly established a formidable reputation with a series of groundbreaking industrial buildings that culminated in the Horizon Factory in Nottingham (1971), designed by the later, fifth partner Peter Foggo.


George Thomson Building, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, 1961-64; above: Arup Campus, Solihull, 1999-2007


Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, 1965-67

Through the 1960s, Dowson brought rigour and invention into the higher education sector with student residences and academic buildings in Oxford, Cambridge, Leicester and elsewhere, while Derek Sugden’s work at Snape Maltings resulted in a pioneering landmark of reuse. The next decade saw a series of corporate office buildings, among which Foggo’s carefully crafted work at London’s Broadgate set exemplary standards which have rarely been equalled.

The Horizon Factory, Nottingham, 1968-71

Powell’s book, with its foreword by Arup Associates alumnus Rab Bennetts, is the latest volume in the Twentieth Century Architects series initiated by the Twentieth Century Society, though it departs somewhat from the series’ original intention of highlighting relatively unsung architects. It also follows on from Powell’s 500-page chronological account of the practice, published in 2014, but it differs in its typological structure, and this time round the author’s depiction of the talented personalities behind the relative anonymity of the brand is particularly successful – it’s a fascinating insight into what seems now a different age.

Wiggins Teape’s Gateway House 1, Basingstoke, 1973-76