City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Another bit of admin. After a couple of weeks of rapid-fire consultancy directly post-Monocle, I joined Arup as a senior consultant in their urban planning business across the Australasian region. A month in, and I'm enjoying it hugely. I'm particularly proud to be working for Arup, a company I've long admired for both their work and their approach to work.

For those that don't know, Arup are one of the world's largest multidisciplinary design firms: 10,000 strong across nearly 90 offices worldwide, comprising designers, engineers, planners, business consultants etc. Multidisciplinary working is at the heart of the firm, and the strong philosophical foundations are derived originally from the founder, Danish engineer and philosopher Ove Arup.

Their roll-call of buildings and built infrastructure is almost the stuff of legend. It's really impossible to list the projects – but a few personal highlights would be: Highpoint 1, Spa Green Estate, Tate Modern and Millennium Bridge in London, Centre Pompidou in Paris, Seattle Public Library, Casa da Musica in Porto, CCTV and National Aquatic Centre in Beijing, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the Oresund Bridge, the Dongtan project outside Shanghai … and many projects here in Sydney, from the small but perfectly formed Andrew Boy Charlton Pool to perhaps the greatest building of the 20th century, the Sydney Opera House.

I sit within the urban planning business here, and in a nutshell I'm responsible for figuring out how information and communications technologies (ICT) will shape future cities. That means a lot of things to a lot of people, but would include urban informatics and pervasive or ubiquitous computing, how to shape or 'landscape' informational services and products within the context of both masterplanning and urban design, the various relationships between data and built fabric, information visualisation and urban design, building new platforms and interfaces for urban design, changing design processes and the knock-on onto organisations (including our own), exploring how we can engender sustainable behaviour via feedback on behaviour, advising on urban policy for innovation and ICT, urban renewal via creative industries etc. etc.

I'm currently exploring a few ideas in particular, such as extrapolating and aggregating Building Information Modelling (BIM) techniques up to the city level – to form a kind of 'City Information Modelling' (CIM). Taken with the feedback from urban informatics, this could then extend the design process out over the true life-cycle of the project, including inhabited and adapted, which would mean a four-dimensional modelling process taking into account the living city, or a '4D Urbanism'. You'll note these concepts are still a bit slippery, to say the least.

Best of all, I get to try to do this in the context of real live urban development projects – which is a true test, with very real constraints, but the opportunity to really make a difference. (For a small portion of my time, I'm also working across some of our Foresight, Innovation and Incubation work with colleagues in London, particularly the Drivers of Change programme. No doubt, I'll also be doing some knowledge management and comms work from time-to-time, too.)

I'm hugely excited by the promise of all this. About 13 years after I started exploring the impact of ICT on cities and vice versa – with the Northern Quarter Network in Manchester, UK – I've come full circle. As ever, I'll try to share what I can here, in this semi-public sketchbook or journal, and now the dust is settling a bit I'll attempt to publish a little more regularly again. OK! Enough admin.


8 responses to “Journal: Arup”

  1. Adrian McEwen Avatar

    Sounds like a very interesting role. Looking forward to reading what escapes here.


  2. Brenna Avatar

    “I’m currently exploring a few ideas in particular, such as extrapolating and aggregating Building Information Modelling (BIM) techniques up to the city level.”
    How does one acquire that type of position?


  3. Kars Avatar

    Sounds like you’ve found a position that really fits your fascinations. Congratulations and enjoy!


  4. architechnophilia Avatar

    Glad to hear about your move to Arup. A slight correction, whilst Ove Arup was of Danish parentage he is in fact a Brit, born in Newcastle in the late 1800s.
    I am an planner as well, but my work presently is on a much smaller scale. We are designing/building a new capital on 200 acres for Montserrat pop. 4500. The challenges of a smaller town are incredible and seem not to diminish with size.
    Good Luck to you


  5. Dan Hill Avatar

    Thanks all.
    I knew Ove was born in Newcastle – I can recommned the very detailed biography of him by Peter Jones, linked over on the right. But in terms of upbringing, culture and education (in Copenhagen) he feels very Danish to me. So while he might ‘officially’ be British in terms of birthplace and subsequent citizenship, in the more important sense of culture, he was a Dane. Let’s settle on British-Danish. Or the other way round.
    Brenna, in terms of your question, a lot of hard work and a very particular set of experiences!


  6. Noah Avatar

    I have been working on a similar system for building-city-infrastructure life-cycle management in academic circles in New York. Does Arup (or yourself) have any interest working with the academic community with this or drawing from the academic community for a knowledge-base for this?


  7. Jake Barton Avatar

    Go Dan! Congratulations on such an esteemed position– I have no doubt that you will do some fascinating and ground breaking work with Arup– I’m sure you’ve been been in contact with Kevin Slavin of Area/Code, Everyware’s writer Adam Greenfield, they were teaching a class at ITP in NYC on the impact of digital technologies into urban spaces– More individually based, but could have bottom up impact on the larger initiatives that you are thinking about–


  8. Ben Kraal Avatar

    Congrats on the new position, Dan. Sounds awesome!


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