V&A Ove Arup Exhibition Concept

The concept for V&A exhibition on Ove Arup’s life and work takes its inspiration from the extraordinary personality and unorthodox thinking of one of the world’s most influential engineer’s.

In Summer 2015 Useful Studio were invited by the V&A Museum to generate an exhibition design proposal for “Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design”. The exhibition will look at the unconventional life and work of the influential Anglo-Danish engineer Ove Arup and his essential contributions to modern and contemporary architecture and engineering.

Useful Studio worked collaboratively with Thomas Matthews and Expedition Engineering on the design and graphic identity concept.

The starting point of our proposed design direction came from a personal recollection, from one of our team who had been fortunate enough to work directly with Ove Arup, of an amusing Christmas card depicting Ove’s head photographed from all sides. This triggered a conversation about the unconventional ‘contents’ and mechanics of Arup’s mind and the sort of person he was, and we began imagining what would it be like to be Arup – to be inside his head and see the world as he saw it. We imagined that it would be amazing, awe-inspiring and pretty unorthodox in there.

The work of Arup, the man and the engineering business he created, inextricably links the arenas of thought and practice where the ‘personal universe’ of the mind has direct links into the practice of the studio. The exhibition content is therefore displayed as if in a design studio, using modular tables in varying widths and heights to accommodate exhibits. Above the design studio, a filigree installation of connected pathways held in tension evokes the idea for a great and expansive mind.

The exhibition is radially arranged to allow the visitor to be able to experience the exhibition content either chronologically, or to start in the centre and explore the exhibition by fluidly experiencing the objects and stories that they are personally drawn to.


V&A Museum, London