This discussion is part of a series of interviews conducted for Arup’s Drivers of Change programme. See Drivers of Change for more information.
I met Tristram Carfrae at Arup’s Sydney office, which sits in a couple of storeys of a fairly anonymous block on Kent Street. The anonymity is typical for Sydney’s ultra-business-like CBD, but so is the casually wonderful aspect – in this case, overlooking the vast Barangaroo development site on the side of the city’s CBD, and the splintered skein of deep harbour out towards Balmain, criss-crossed with ferries and functioning as the occasional water-berth of the ocean liners, great white slabs of floating architecture that add a temporary residential function to the port, before moving on east to Hawaii or north to Hong Kong.
We sit in the reception and talk for a couple of hours, over a few plastic cups of instant coffee, and just behind a model of the National Aquatic Centre, the building designed by Arup, led by Carfrae, and Australian architects PTW with Chinese partners CCDI, and that opened in Beijing just over a month ago. Known colloquially as the ‘Water Cube’, it’s being seen as a new masterpiece of structural engineering, already enjoying a flurry of publicity that will only increase in fervour when the Games start this winter. But Carfrae's career extends well beyond the Cube, and he's generally thought to be one of the leading structural engineers of his time.
We talked about the Cube, and the changing practice of structural engineering that informs such projects, and how this is radically changing architecture, building and cities. We chewed over multidisciplinary working and design processes in general, as well as techniques new and old. I’ve organised this piece into loose themes, as the conversation jumped around a little.