New Age Communication

New Age Communication


Arup is the creative force at the heart of many of the world’s most prominent projects in the built environment and across the industry.

Taking communication to the next level, Arup recently awarded DaeWha Kang as the winner of their annual competition No8@arup, which sought to discover how collaboration between designers across all sectors could lead to a new exploration of communication through technology.

DaeWha Kang designed the ‘Heart of Arup’, a five-storey high, acrylic leaf structure that aims to raise interesting questions about bringing the intangible digital world into a physical space.

The sculpture gracefully hangs within the atrium space in Arup’s offices at No.8 Fitzroy Street, while live Yammer feeds materialise on cable suspended acrylic leaves. The interactive vertical communication sculpture will now remain in situ over the coming months.

Experimentation with different materials was central to the successful completion of the sculpture, enabling the team to pilot different ways of projecting and establish the best model.

A multidisciplinary team led by Arup’s Laura Sims delivered this ambitious project within a fast paced programme – concept designs through to final installation delivery was completed within only 16 weeks, in a fully functional office. This involved extensive liaison with Base Structures, fabricators, MEC and aluminum suppliers, Aalco.

Designer DaeWha Kang, DaeWha Kang Design, commented, “It has been a privilege to work with Arup on this years’ summer installation. Arup’s support of emerging practices and experimental projects continues to make a positive impact on our profession. The digital world is becoming an ever-more present part of our lives, and for us, Heart of Arup is a first foray into bringing that intangible network into our physical space.”


Nigel Tonks, Group Leader Buildings London, Arup, talks to Architect’s Choice about the design and the lessons we can all learn from it.

Why did Arup decide to run this competition?
Experimentation, research, learning and play are fundamental to why Arup invests in installations, sculptures and in particular the No.8@arup Competition. Whether Arup is experimenting with media architecture and adaptive environments or making a topical comment on a social issue; our principle objective in running the No.8@arup Competition is to support emerging architects and designers, from all spectrums of design. We believe it is important to provide an opportunity for emerging practices to engage in these types of competitions to showcase their creativity.

What did the brief entail?
The theme for this year’s competition was to explore ideas by using a communication system that could create a virtual stairway installation for the No.8@arup office. Using digital optimisation, parametric modelling or coding to design a virtual stair to generate delight.

What made DaeWha Kang the stand-out winner of the competition?
The theme of this year’s installation was a stair for communication. DaeWha playfully integrated digital communication into his ideas. Fusion of digital technology with an installation that seeks to unify the virtual and physical worlds.

Why is the recognition of communications so important to the world of architecture?
There is topical discourse around how we communicate, how we occupy buildings, and how technology can provide adaptive architecture.

How did the project successfully come together in just 16 weeks?
We are used to the delivery of fast paced programmes to deliver high quality temporary installations within limited time and budgets. Arup has been involved in these types of temporary installations and sculptures for decades, whether it is the programme of Serpentine Pavilions, here in London, or 2016’s London Design Festival installations such as The Smile, Weather Forecast or Circular Building, our engineers are well versed in designing, testing and delivering under pressure.

Did you ever find that there were conflicts between the physical design and construction of the installation and the message at the heart of it?
There is always a creative tension in how an architect perceives his vision; compared to how the engineering designs, informed by the construction methodology, execute the final delivery. Within an accelerated programme, there is the pressure of delivery, working within the budget yet still delivering an efficient and elegant solution. This task was made more challenging as the No.8@arup installation is constructed within an operational office. The multi-disciplinary team together with DaeWha worked tirelessly to ensure that the design intent could be delivered.

What lessons did Arup learn from bringing this project together?
We learnt that opportunities like these can stimulate a huge interest in the design community and generate a terrific amount of creativity and new ideas. We have learnt where social media is well embedded, or less well embedded in parts of our working culture. The idea of physically manifesting online data for a public audience inspired more creativity, in the generation of content.

Why is it important for Arup to have a transparency with its communication?
The very best design can entail large numbers of specialists and experts collaborating to share knowledge, expertise and insight, and to synthesise good solutions to problems. This kind of communication has been central to Arup’s ethos, since our founding 70 years ago. Over the last decade, digital communication has enabled Arup to interconnect over 14,000 experts all over the world to deliver good ideas and best practice to our clients. It has been an exciting experiment to reveal some of this invisible connectivity and make it a little bit more tangible. This makes staff and visitors more aware of new ways of connecting people. | Images courtesy of Kyungsub Shin.

Jade Tilley
Jade Tilley

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