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Embracing creativity, design and chaos by Rob Leslie-Carter


Presentation led by Rob Leslie-Carter from Arup at the APM Conference 2013

Presentation led by Rob Leslie-Carter from Arup at the APM Conference 2013

Published in Technology , Business
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  • In 1934 (note Arup was founded in 1946) , London Zoo (the Regent's Park zoo in London) unveiled its famous spiral-ramped "Penguin Pool," designed by Tecton, an influential architectural firm led by Russian emigre Berthold Lubetkin. Tecton's innovative Modernist design was unusually elegant and playful and one of the first uses of reinforced concrete.During a refurbishment in 2004, the penguin colony was temporarily relocated to one of the zoo's duck ponds and took such a strong liking to their new habitat that it was decided that they would remain there
  • In 1970 an international architectural competition was launched based on a program to build a cultural and arts complex in the centre of historic Paris set out by French President Georges Pompidou. Chaired by the French architect Jean Prouvé, the prize-winners selected by the jury were Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini, assisted by Ove Arup & Partners. The structural engineers in charge on Arup's behalf were the Englishman Edmund Happold and the Irishman Peter Rice who had already worked together on the structural design for the Sydney Opera House. Construction work started in April 1972 and work on the metal framework was begun in September 1974. On February 2nd 1977, the Centre Pompidou opened its doors to the public.Design ConceptRogers' and Piano's concept for the Centre Pompidou drew major influences from the works of Cedric Price who experimented in the 1960s with open forms and flexible spaces. To maximize internal space, they turned the construction inside-out and exposed a skeleton of brightly colored tubes for mechanical systems. The ducts on the outside of the building are colour-coded: blue for air, green for fluids, yellow for electricity cables and red for movement and flow (elevators, stairs) and safety (fire extinguishers). As with Price's Fun Palace, an unbuilt project, the priority was to maximise functional movement and flow, freeing up internal space and facilitating the interaction between different disciplines.Urban ContextA further important element was the architect's intention to create a meeting space not only for the art lover, but also for the local residents. The large slightly sloped paved piazza in front of the building fulfills this role introducing the high-tech structure of the building to its traditional surrundings and Paris street life. On hi website Richard Rogers notes that "Pompidou proves that modernity and tradition can profitably interact and enhance historic cities."Building StructureThe building was designed on the lines of an "evolving spatial diagram" in two parts: firstly, a 3-level infrastructure housing the technical facilities and service areas; secondly, a vast 7-level glass and steel superstructure, including a terrace and mezzanine floor, concentrating most of the centre's areas of activity. The building's metal framework has 14 porticos with 13 bays, each spanning 48 m and standing 12.8 m apart. On top of the posts, on each level, are moulded steel beam hangers, measuring 8 m in length and weighing 10 tonnes. 45 m long girders rest on the beam hangars, which spread stress through the posts and are balanced by tie-beams anchored on cross-bars. Each storey is 7 m high floor-to-floor. The glass and steel superstructure envelops the free open spaces.The Centre Pompidou houses a museum of modern art, reference library, industrial design centre, temporary exhibition space, children’s library and art centre, audio-visual research centre (IRCAM) and restaurants. It underwent renovation from 1996 to 1999 and reopened on January 1st 2000. In 2010 an extension to the Centre Pompidou designed by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban opened as the Centre Pompidou Metz in the west of France.
  • ‘Some of the defining features of the building – the colour scheme, the polycarbonate cladding, Michael Craig Martin’s mural, the bendywood handrails, the landscape, the bush hammered ‘black like molasses’ spiral stairs and walls, the exposed services and concrete, the theatre fly towers and interiors, the green roof – were all midstream improvisations and adaptations to meet the budget without compromising quality, durability, and the design teams’ ethos of always combining form with function.  It’s not perfect, but every beautiful square inch has a purpose.  It is a building without a single gimmick.’
  • To remove potential pinch points from specific key staff becoming overloaded, and to allow technical staff more freedom, Arup’s project managers established semi-independent teams with their own leadership, to progress in parallel streams. These four teams included design, product research, stakeholder engagement and commercial issues such as scope, contract and fees. For example, we established clean interfaces that would allow the finalisation of the structural geometry and research into the ETFE facade performance to proceed without holding up the general space planning of the building. We also separated leadership for key stakeholder meetings and for commercial negotiations, so that one did not compromise the other.
  • These eight threads still hold true today. They were initially used as a guide to brief the Arup team and our design partners. They proved invaluable in discussions with external stakeholders and local approval authorities, who were able to buy into the overall vision, and understand how they could contribute to achieving that vision. For example, at one point during the design process the price of glass in China fell significantly. In response, our project management team submitted an option paper comparing the relative costs and benefits of ETFE and glass roofs. The response from the Beijing Municipal Government was a definitive, “the Mayor has approved an ETFE bubble roof, so we will have a box of bubbles!”Unique to this building is the direct comparison with the model produced for the international design competition, and the actual Water Cube when it opened five years later. It is remarkable to see a vision and a reality perfectly aligned – a very powerful lesson in terms of the importance of capturing and communicating a clear direction at the start of the project.1. the site plan and urban design – sitting opposite the National Stadium in yin yang harmony, the two sites separated by a protected historic axis to Beijing’s Forbidden City. Red versus blue, fire versus water, round versus square, female versus male, heaven versus earth2. a building full of water made from bubbles – a perfectly pure combination of form and function3. a building harnessing the benefits of nature – the biomimicry of bubbles, and the translation of a theoretical physics into a unique building form. Portraying the harmonious co-existence of man and nature4. a big blue ‘green’ building – that technically performs well in terms of heat, light, sound, structure, and water, so function is not sacrificed in the name of art. Instead art is made from function5. a 3D world - the giant strides made in 3D design and analysis technology, without which this project simply could not have been fully conceived or documented6. next technology - the use of high tech materials to minimise energy consumption7. spiritually uplifting inside and outside - the square shape of the building reflects the Chinese philosophies of the square representing Earth, and circles representing the heaven8. total, equitable and transparent partnership between Arup, PTW Architects, and CCDI.
  • Sceptical, easily bored, want to feel loved Resist working to deadlinesDislike centralised management structuresMay tolerate leadership provided it’s unobtrusiveLeaders need their respect, and they expect respect back
  • Short concept design phase with unequal distribution of disciplines does not allow design freedom to improve quality, and integrate disciplines for ‘optimisation’
  • The process reorganised to gain information earlier and to retain design freedom longer


  • 1. Embracing Creativity, Design and Chaos APM Project Management Conference 2013 Rob Leslie-Carter
  • 2. Sir Ove Arup
  • 3. quality of work total design humane organisation straight and honourable dealings social usefulness reasonable prosperity aims satisfied members satisfied clients good reputation and influence results a membership of quality efficient organisation solvency unity and enthusiasm means
  • 4. Job # 1
  • 5. Centre George Pompidou, France
  • 6. Sydney Opera House, Australia
  • 7. Arup today Arup today
  • 8. Arup today
  • 11. The Team Arup+PTW+CCDI
  • 12. 21 Sh1t we’ve won! Deliver! Fast track everything! From winning the design competition through to a fully approved scheme in just 12 weeks Hunting in packs - we established semi-independent teams to progress parallel streams: design product research stakeholder engagement and commercial issues De-couple everything! Test everything against the project vision so people converge in right place
  • 13. 22 the site plan and urban design – sitting opposite the National Stadium in yin yang harmony a building full of water made from bubbles – a perfectly pure combination of form and function harnessing the benefits of nature – biomimicry of bubbles translated through theoretical physics a big blue ‘green’ building – that technically performs well on every level a 3D world - virtual prototyping from concept, to documentation, to safe construction next technology - the use of high tech materials to minimise footprint and consumption uplifting inside and outside - reflecting Chinese philosophy and giving athletes an edge total, equitable and transparent partnership between Arup, PTW Architects, and CCDI. A project vision that won’t burst under pressure
  • 14. The Water Cube
  • 15. 25 World Records, eight gold medals for Michael Phelps, not all in a LZR Racer Suit!
  • 16. reality - 2008vision – 2003 Wysiwyg……
  • 17. Inspiration from the bits in-between
  • 18. The best legacy – happy people
  • 20. 31 Arup’s approach to people Get good people and let them do what they want Give motivation through independence of action Maintain a very flat organisation Apply minimal bureaucracy
  • 21. 32 How we as Project Managers need to adapt Minimal, simple rules - readily understood to be “good” Provide a safe environment where people can experiment and fail Retain strong technical leadership alongside project leadership Be fair – don’t take the p1ss Treat everyone equally - it’s a community not an army
  • 22. 33 Create space to create – challenge the process
  • 23. 34 Create space to create – challenge the process
  • 24. GREENHOUSE BY JOOST – Planning to not plan
  • 25. The methodology
  • 26. The documents
  • 27. The James Caird, 1916 THE SHACKLETON EPIC – because it’s there
  • 28. The Shackleton Epic Crew
  • 29. The Shackleton Epic Crew
  • 30. The Shackleton Epic Support Team
  • 31. The Communications Plan - Point of No Return
  • 32. The Shackleton Epic
  • 33. Embracing Creativity, Design and Chaos APM Project Management Conference 2013 Rob Leslie-Carter
  • 34. 48 Wrap Creativity and chaos are not signs of an untidy mind that need editing – be comfortable with it and cultivate it. You can’t plan and control the creative process – you can enable it, make space for it. Leadership includes passion and inspiration – not just rules Spend more time on setting a crystal clear vision to get the best from the team (and less time creating minutes). People don’t exist to act the way Project Managers want them to – get over it, be open to occasional random thoughts, you’ll have more fun!
  • 35. Thank you! Rob Leslie-Carter