Arup Community Engagement

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Arup Community Engagement

Project overview

Project overview

  • Ten-family ‘Make-it House’ workshops, two hours each, twice a day for five days during May half-term.
  • Children and their accompanying adults were introduced to building materials, techniques and the various jobs involved in building a house.
  • This activity links to the Ove Arup exhibition and is part of the V&A Engineering Season.

The V&A Engineering Season highlights the importance of engineering in our daily lives, presenting the vital and creative role of engineers in the creation of our built environment.

As part of the V&A Engineering Season, the “Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design” exhibition will present to a wider public the design philosophy of Ove Arup, revealing his ideas of collaborative working, total architecture and design as a humanistic and technological tool for social responsibility.

Arup engineers have designed and led ten workshops about engineering for family groups with children between the ages of 5 and 12 years last Monday 30 May to Friday 3 June. These workshops were part of the May half-term Family Art Fun programme at the Victoria and Albert Museum and aimed to inspire young people in engineering and design.

The workshops explored the use of different building materials (stones, bricks, wood, concrete, steel and fabric) in construction, giving the possibility to build little houses with five materials kits specially designed by Arup engineers. Each child was able to feedback on their model and got feedback on their ideas from Arup staff and the wider group.

At the end of each workshop, a role playing game was played, where children took a design and construction role (client, architect, structural engineer, building services engineer and building contractor) to collaboratively build a small prefabricated house made of cardboard. This activity stimulated discussion, building an understanding of the different roles of those involved in constructing a building; highlighting the importance of working as a team and using a construction programme with time scales over which different professionals are involved.

The workshop had three parts:

  • A 30-minute presentation exploring the use of six building materials (stone, bricks, wood, concrete, steel and fabric) in construction, with hands on experience and examples of what are the strengths and weaknesses of each material option. This presentation and discussion used carefully sourced images on a wide-screen, lots of found materials and examples of more unusual materials from the Arup materials library - such as a piece of concrete from the V&A Exhibition Road excavations.
  • A 45-minute making session that used five materials kits (stone, bricks, wood, fabric and concrete) created by the Arup team. Children and their families were invited to experiment and play with one kit initially to explore its potential and to combine different construction techniques later to complete their designs. At the end of the creative session the various designs were discussed with the group to share the design and building experience.
  • A 45-minutes role-playing game on the theme of collaboration in building construction. Buildings, especially large and complex ones, are not created by a single person but by teams working together according to a programme. In this example there was a specially designed Gantt chart with jobs that last for two minutes each with a total construction time of ten minutes. The aim of this session was to communicate the different roles and decisions needed to successfully design and build buildings. The client, for example, needs to decide what type of house they want to commission and decide on sustainable energy source technologies. They also need to make regular site visits to check work is being completed and pay everyone at the end. The team had to deal with unforeseen circumstances like heavy rain and unscheduled tea breaks!

At the end of each workshop families have met and worked with practicing engineers; came away with a greater knowledge about materials and their strengths and weaknesses; had an experience of building a model which they can take home and of working together with other families to create a house.

The Make-it workshops at the V&A are a fantastic idea to make young people experience and discover art, design and technology subjects. Working with the learning department at the V&A has given us an amazing opportunity to show the fun side of engineering and inspire new generations towards careers that will shape our future built environment
Francesco Anselmo, Associate at Arup, London

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