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Balmond, Cecil

Cecil Balmond
Portrait, Michael Mella
Structural Engineering
Advanced Geometries

Cecil Balmond was born in 1943 in Sri Lanka. He received a B.S. from the University of Southampton and his Masters in Civil Engineering from Imperial College, London. He originally wanted to be a musician, but Joined Arup in 1968. It took ten years for him to become aware of all the possibilities of structures, which happened while working on the Staatsgal-erie with James Stirling. In 2000 founded the Advanced Geometry Unit and he became deputy chairman of Arup in 2003.
Balmond takes the position that buildings should not look like “feats of engineering but instead they appear so integral to each project that you can’t tell the engineering from the architecture.”(2) He also feels that engineers should work with architects from the beginning because he says otherwise “it cuts off the building’s possibilities and you’re limited simply to deciding where the columns go to support that facade—it’s all about just refining something.”(2) He works alongside some of the most acclaimed architects and artists repeatedly, such as Anish Kapoor and Rem Koolhaas, who he has worked on over 30 projects with. He, also, recently started designing his own buildings and bridges, his first was the Pedro and Ines Footbridge in Coimbra, Portugal pictured below.
He has written the books No. 9, the Search for the Sigma Code, Informal: the Informal in Architecture and Engineering, and most recently Element and also co-written several other books. The books express his love of numbers and their use when designing architecture and structures. Informal won the 2005 Banister Fletcher Prize for the best book of the year on architecture. Cecil Balmond has also been a visiting professor at the architecture schools of both Harvard and Yale, as well as, the London School of Economics and the University of Pennsylvania.
In July 2010 Cecil Balmond left Arup to start his own firm, Balmond Studios, because he “wanted to have more time to make some of the big art installations [he has] been doing for the past four or five years.”(3) He remains an advisor for his remaining projects, such as the London Olympic Orbit project(pictured below), and will remain a Arup Fellow.


Pedro and Ines Footbridge, Coimbra, Portugal

Weave Bridge, Philadelphia, United States

ArcelorMittal Orbit, London, England


Written by Sarah Turner

January 31, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Posted in Engineers

Arup Advanced Geometry Unit

Arup Advanced Geometry Unit

Note:  This specialist group was closed after Cecil Balmond left Arup in late 2010.

Main Office: 13 Fitzroy Street, London W1T 4BQ, United Kingdom

Number of employees: 6

Structural Engineering
Advanced Geometries

The Advanced Geometry Unit(AGU) was founded in 2000 by Cecil Balmond and is currently led by Daniel Bosia. It was created to “explore new modes of working in emerging markets through the development of geometric and computer programming.”(1) It is comprised of engineers, architects, mathematicians, programmers, and artists and is very strong at form making through the use of new geometric forms and structural systems. AGU uses its own software called FABWIN(a nonlinear, form finding program).
AGU has contributed to the work of some of the most recognized architects of the time, such as Kolhaaus, Toyo Ito, and Jean Nouval. They also work with many artists, such as Anish Kapoor, on big art installations. Some of their most recent projects are the ArcelorMittal Orbit with Anish Kapoor for the 2012 Olympics and the Serpintine Pavilion Program, which invites architects who have never had a building in the UK to design a pavilion that stays up for a few months in Hyde Park. The heart of the AGU is “more about discovering a system. It’s starting from testing systems—materials systems, numeric systems, and their opportunities in architecture.”(2)

Selected Projects:

Macquarie Bank, Sydney, Australia

Kurilpa Bridge, Brisbane, Australia

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2010, London, England

CCTV Headquarters, Beijing, China

Written by Sarah Turner

January 27, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Posted in Engineers