It is 40 years today since Ove Arup presented the “Key Speech” in Winchester. I can remember reading it in late 1999 before I joined the firm and cynically thinking what a great leaders pitch. But within a year, and maybe through working on projects like the wobbly bridge, I observed that most of what he wrote is actually embedded in the culture of Arup.

Below are the aims (A), means (C) and results (B) which I find useful when trying to explain to others how the firm is organised. I try to avoid describing the matrix structure, or the markets, practices and businesses since I am not sure if that makes sense to others. But the points below give a sense of the song we sing as we head off on our daily endeavor.

A – The main aims of the firm are:

  1. Quality of work
  2. Total architecture
  3. Humane organisation
  4. Straight and honourable dealings
  5. Social usefulness
  6. Reasonable prosperity of members.

B – If these aims could be realised to a considerable degree, they should result in:

  1. Satisfied members
  2. Satisfied clients
  3. Good reputation and influence.

C – But this will need:

  1. A membership of quality
  2. Efficient organisation
  3. Solvency
  4. Unity and enthusiasm.

Item A2 is probably very familiar to people in this century, but is one of the fundamental ways of working that has led to Arup organically growing to our position today:

The term ‘Total Architecture’ implies that all relevant design decisions have been considered together and have been integrated into a whole by a well organised team empowered to fix priorities. This is an ideal which can never – or only very rarely – be fully realised in practice, but which is well worth striving for, for artistic wholeness or excellence depends on it, and for our own sake we need the stimulation produced by excellence.

I like the Douglas Adams quote:

Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

*([The Salmon of Doubt)](*

This speech was written before I was born and reflects what is normal in the way my world works [sometimes].