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Happold, Edmund “Ted”

Edmund “Ted” Happold

Born: 1930
Died: January 12, 1996

Ted Happold once said, “[A] world which sees art and engineering as divided is not seeing the world as a whole,” and such a statement is what defined the structural engineer’s life and career. He was born to a serious and academic Quaker family. His father was the first Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Leeds and held a Masters degree, PhD, and Doctor of Science. His mother took degrees in both economics and history, was a founding member of the Youth Hostels Association, and took in many refugees at the beginning of World War II.

Happold became a student at the Department of Geology at the University of Leeds in 1949. A year later, he volunteered to completely construct the foundations of a large portable greenhouse. “The adrenaline rush proved intoxicating,” and, soon afterward, Ted Happold applied and was accepted by Sir Robert McAlpine as a junior engineer.

Ted Happold returned to the University of Leeds in 1954, but studied within the Department of Civil Engineering instead of the Department of Geology. In 1958, he received a BS with honors in Civil Engineering and, shortly after, traveled Finland, Sweden, and Denmark to study modern architectural engineering.

During the next few years, Ted Happold worked for the architect Alvar Aalto and Ove Arup and Partners while studying architecture at the Regent Street Polytechnic in the evenings. During this time period, he worked on projects such as the Sydney Opera House and the Pompidou Center.

In 1967, Ted Happold met his wife, Eve. The wedding was held in the Hollamby/Happold extension of the West Norwood Library, “and from that moment on the real partnership of life began.”

The University of Bath offered the Chair of Building Engineering to Ted in 1976, giving him “the opportunity to develop a joint school of architecture and engineering”. Soon afterward, Ted Happold founded Buro Happold with seven other partners on May 1st, 1976. The original structural engineering practice was set up in Bath and specialized in lightweight structural systems.

According to Buro Happold’s website, Ted Happold passed away on January 12th, 1996. Although a great man has passed from the fields of architecture and engineering, “[h]is inspiration…lives on in the University of Bath and within the various design offices of Buro Happold.”


Sydney Opera House (with Arup)


Pompidou Centre (with Arup)

[Any information, unless otherwise stated, about Ted Happold is taken from Happold: The Confidence to Build by Derek Walker and Bill Addis.]

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Written by Anthony M. Garcia

February 1, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Posted in Engineers