Renowned structural engineer and designer Cecil Balmond is leaving Arup, the U.K.-based engineering firm where he has worked for 42 years.
“I’m stepping out to set up my own practice,” says Balmond, who is credited with making possible some of the most audacious structures, including the CCTV Headquarters in Beijing by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) and the Centre Pompidou in Metz, France, by Shigeru Ban.
“I want to have more time to make some of the big art installations I’ve been doing for the past four or five years, and I want to do prototypes for the ideas I have,” he says. His new firm, Balmond Studio, will be based in London; however, he adds, “I’ll spend a little more time in America.” He teaches at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design.
Balmond became deputy chairman of Arup Group in 2003. He stepped down from this position last year but continued to head the firm’s Advanced Geometry Unit (AGU), which he founded in 2000. He quietly resigned in July but remains an adviser on the London Olympic Orbit project (a collaboration with Anish Kapoor) until the end of 2010. “I’m gradually easing myself out,” Balmond says. He will remain an Arup fellow, a trustee of the firm and a consultant.
Free to pursue his own desires, Balmond expects his career will become more multidisciplinary. “Of course, there’ll be some bridge design and some other prime design,” he says. “There’s also some product design that’s been growing at the AGU. I want to design some products, maybe. I’m really open—it’s not a predetermined thing.”
Balmond, who was born in Sri Lanka, started working at Arup in 1968 after earning a bachelor of science from the University of Southampton in 1965. He completed his master of science at Imperial College in London in 1970.
Balmond has won numerous accolades, including an honorary diploma from the Architectural Association in 1992. He became an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1998.
Balmond’s notable projects include the Seattle Central Library (with OMA), England’s Imperial War Museum North (with Daniel Libeskind) and the Serpentine Pavilion annual program in London. “Cecil has had an enormous impact on Arup and on me, personally,” says Philip Dilley, Arup Group chairman. “Cecil embodies much of what Arup is about: design and technical excellence, quality and collaboration.”
There are no plans to replace Balmond, but there will be “an evolution of leadership and talent” within the firm, Dilley says. As for potentially losing prime clients due to Balmond’s departure, he notes, “[Balmond] has been generous in ensuring that his architect friends and other collaborators are well-anchored into Arup at several levels.”
Balmond emphasizes that he is not severing his ties with his longtime employer. “With contacts like [Rem] Koolhaas, Ito [Toyoo], Kapoor and the people I’ve worked with in the past, if they want engineering from Arup, that work will go to Arup, and I’ll just be a consultant who facilitates the whole process,” he says. “I’ve been there for a long time, so it’s time to move on. But we’re close. Arup is family.”div id="articleExtras"