The Ove Arup Foundation has signed an agreement with the University of Cambridge for a four-year research programme leading to educational modules in Digital Cities for Change at graduate and executive level.
The research will address the disciplinary gulf between city managers, engineers and urban designers. The purpose of the research is to work towards a programme that trains built-environment professionals in a broader range of disciplines and tools, bridging infrastructure and city management solutions in order to develop the opportunities presented by the digital economy.
The research programme will address the gaps and identify the digital tools required to deliver a smart city which benefits the citizens it serves. The outcome will be a series of educational modules required to equip a new generation of built-environment professionals.
This programme will be delivered by a team of experts from the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC) at the University of Cambridge. Led by Dr Jennifer Schooling (CSIC, Department of Engineering), the programme will bring together academics from the disciplines of civil engineering, land economy, architecture, geography, manufacturing engineering and computer science to develop capacity and capability within UK industry to design, deliver and sustain smart cities and infrastructure solutions. The research will not be confined to the UK, but will also develop international case studies.
Future engineers will need to be better prepared for leadership roles, with a more thorough understanding of the impacts of their work on society. That, at least, is the conclusion drawn by a Young Person’s Forum hosted in May 2017 by The Ove Arup Foundation.
Participants in the forum felt that those engineers already equipped with technical expertise would benefit from stronger social sciences training to support them in leadership positions. In an era where big technology companies have influential, unelected leaders of their own, a focus on the social impact of design in the built environment is vital.
The purpose of the Foundation’s interactive workshop was to think about the trends and issues shaping cities over the next 25 years, and direct funding toward new challenges in the built environment. A small group of young people from Arup as well as representatives from RIBA, RCA and CIBSE considered a number of trends and prioritised six – leadership; digital society; artificial intelligence; sustainable behaviours; land use patterns; and water management – and discussed their impact on the role of a built environment professional.
They went on to discuss the risks, challenges and opportunities for the sector, as well as identifying new skills, knowledge, methods and educational tools that are likely to be useful.
Besides leadership skills, Artificial Intelligence (AI) was deemed likely to have a big impact on skills in the future. It certainly needs to be part of a built environment professional’s tool set and language. Climate change, too, should be addressed through improved foresight and holistic thinking in the planning process, with an emphasis on connecting citizens to the built environment, and avoiding the risk of over-engineering.
Other topics discussed included the effects that an increasingly digitally-driven society might have on consumption patterns and the shape of the city itself, and the age-old issue of how to protect long-term engineering visions in the face of short-term planning and political motivation.
In the 1990s The Ove Arup Foundation supported the start of the IDBE Master’s course at Cambridge University.
Now, the course has been refreshed and reinvigorated under the management and delivery of the Centre for Institute Sustainability Leadership (CISL) at Cambridge University.
As part of the relaunch, the Ove Arup Foundation hosted a reception to raise the profile of the course amongst industry practitioners. The reception brought together faculty, alumni, prospective candidates, academics and industry experts.
The Ove Arup Foundation made two awards in 2017 to students who will be carrying out post-graduate studies, both at the Royal Danish Academy for Fine Arts, KADK, in Copenhagen.
Dominic Hoehn – The science of cities: an ethnography of evidence-based approaches to urban design in Denmark
How are future cities designed? What information do urban decision-makers consider, and what does it mean to make design ‘scientific’? The research will examine what ‘evidence-based design’ means in practice in Denmark to contextualise and evaluate the implications of a ‘science of cities’ – especially with reference to the history of urban design and the failures of modernist urban planning.
Jordan McCrae – Just how ‘liveable’ is the world’s most liveable city?
Copenhagen has again been rated the world’s most liveable city, 2016, by Metropolis Magazine. However, the reality for many of its inhabitants is often far from ‘liveable’. Rising property prices, under provision of housing and population growth are leading to both an over-reliance on often crippling mortgages and the social segregation of the city.
Alternative housing development models could provide opportunities to cut out the profit-driven developer and result in better and cheaper housing within the city.
This research and design will also be relevant to the UK context, where a similar crisis is emerging. Thus, the opportunity to learn from and exchange ideas between the two countries is immense.
The Ove Arup Foundation has provided funding for three architecture centres to work toward a new platform to inspire the next generation of creative place-makers.
Generation Place (www.generationplace.org.uk) is an initiative developed by Architecture Centre Bristol, 22 Sheds and MADE. Its aim is to harness the talents of organisations across the UK that specialise in educating young people about place. These talents will be channelled into a national network of expertise, gathering individual programmes, professionals and organisations from across disciplines to share and encourage best practice.
On launching the initiative at UCL London, Amy Harrison, head of learning and participation at the Architecture Centre Bristol, said: “We need to engage young people in placemaking today to ensure a liveable and vibrant future for our cities.”
Generation Place projects are intended to be flexible, and can take many forms: week-long summer academies; careers-focused design challenges; one-to-one mentoring; city expeditions for schools; or even community live-build projects with young people.
The potential positive effects of Generation Place projects on young people are manifold. They reach such areas as employability and careers insights, political empowerment and active citizenship, and developing creativity, communication skills and confidence.
The Ove Arup Foundation has agreed to provide a grant towards the research of a highly unusual and striking method of engineering. The Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya are unique, woven as they are from the aerial roots of the Indian Rubber Tree (ficus elastica).
Wilfrid Middleton is set to visit Meghalaya to study the bridges, which grow over years to produce spans of remarkable strength able to withstand floods, earthquakes, and use as public highways.
The living bridges provide a chance for great insight into the strength mechanisms of trees, growth for resilience, and engineering for extreme loading. As a symbiosis between human and natural engineering, they provide a vital piece of the puzzle of biomimetics, a crucial tool in 21st century engineering.
Middleton aims to talk to builders, users, owners and maintainers about the design process and their understanding of the growth mechanisms of ficus elastica to provide the basis for engineering research. The work will bring together engineers, architects, botanists, local builders, environmentalists, and explorers.
The project will have five research outputs:
The first coherent repository of knowledge in the field.
An understanding of the position the bridges hold in their ecosystems and society.
Documentation of the building process, to compare with modern techniques, combining trussed arches with cable-stays.
Through measurements, a conclusion about the bridge structural systems and the force regimes.
We will learn a great deal about earthquake and flood resistance, humidity resistance, optimisation through growth, and self-repair.
The Ove Arup Foundation has recently announced support for the Girl’s Garage project, based in Berkeley, California.
The innovative design and building programme offers a pathway for girls aged 9-13 to explore, improve, and apply creative and technical skills through real-world projects.
One of the primary aims of the project is to tackle inequality in architecture, design and the building trade by enrolling and matriculating 72 girls of mixed nationality, mixed race and low income in its one-year, 10-module course.
Course designers hope that students will experience of the power of creativity and making, as well as increased confidence and community leadership skills. There will also be a strand exploring the many possibilities for continued learning and vocation in fields of architecture, engineering and design.
Girl’s Garage has built a community of over 400 girls and family members who are deeply committed to further building and connecting young underprivileged girls to high-level opportunities related to the built environment. It also has strong partnerships with other organisations and educational institutions including the University of California Berkeley College of Environmental Design (where their founder is a professor), IT companies and local design firms.
The three-day workshop discussed the topic of ‘Disruptive Models of Engineering Education’. The public lecture and debate was given by Professor Christine Ortiz and was attended by 130 people.
Professor Ortiz described her frustration with the inflexibility of the existing system in the US and her decision to step away to start take on the challenge of creating something new within a highly regulated environment. She believes her challenge is to change the inequality experienced by minority groups to gain truly equitable access to quality education.
Details of her lecture will appear on the University of Queensland website: