Civil Engineering Firm Makes Difference." to Landscape with Its Emphasis on Quality; THE BIGINTERVIEW Arup Has Strong Foundations in Cardiff, as Robert Llewellyn Jones Discovered When He Spoke to Steven Luke
Byline: Robert Llewellyn
LOOKING across Cardiff Bay Dr Steven Luke, Arup's director for Wales and Northern Ireland, has the satisfaction of knowing the engineering consultancy really has left its mark on the landscape.
The business has had a presence in the city for more than four decades, and during that time has been involved in a slew of major projects across Wales.
The move to Cardiff was originally sparked by two such projects.
"We have this office in Cardiff, which opened in 1970, because of two projects - the Hoover development in Merthyr Tydfil and the City Centre re-development which was eventually cancelled," said Mr Luke. "Fortunately one or two of the buildings were started, which anchored it here in 1970, so we are now celebrating 42 years in Cardiff."
Established in 1946 with an initial focus on structural engineering, Arup first came to the world's attention with the structural design of the Sydney Opera House and its work on the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
Today the company's portfolio includes planning, design and an array of multi-disciplinary skills. The business employs 11,000 staff at 100 offices in 35 countries.
Dr Luke has himself worked within the business for the past 35 years.
"We spent 28 years in Mount Stuart Square and moved to the Cardiff Bay office at Pierhead Street in 1998," he recalls. "Over those 40 years we have grown from humble beginnings to an office of 250, an integral part of the Arup network."
Turning to the structure of the company, he explained: "Arup is structured within five regions of the world, ours is called UK, Middle East and Southern Africa with the majority of staff in the UK representing about 40% of Arup globally. This region, where I'm leader, covers Northern Ireland, Wales and south-west England and employs 450 staff, who form the largest private multi-disciplinary consultancy in Wales and we aim to remain in that position."
That said Dr Luke is anxious to stress the company is committed to Wales, being heavily involved in all aspects of the business - from infrastructure, strategic thinking in terms of development, through to the built environment and sustainability all linked to the local community and community activities.
This is the human face of a business with an expected turnover this year of PS1bn worldwide.
Breaking his global sum down Dr Luke said: "In the UK it will be PS370m with our region close to PS35m. So we are an important and established office that contributes to the rest of Arup with its Welsh entrepreneurial spirit."
But work done by staff in Cardiff is by no means confined to projects in the UK.
"We've worked as far away as Kazakhstan, down into Australia, America and Russia," he said. "I suppose in our office, as a result of working globally, we have links with the rest of Arup and so share and win work with other offices or go into countries where Arup doesn't exist and demonstrate our entrepreneurial skills. As a result, over the years we have had this outward looking view of life which is underwritten by our having at one time 25 different nationalities working here."
The construction industry is viewed as a barometer of the economy and Mr Luke noted that the sector had come under pressure in recent years.
He said: "The construction industry has been severely hit by the recession and has fallen behind. We are talking about a contraction of between three and five percent, even more, which reflects the inactivity across the whole of the UK."
Nevertheless there are still major projects which attract government support such as High Speed 2 which Arup is heavily involved with and CrossRail which is sucking in work for Arup's offices around the UK.
There was work generated by the London Olympic' infrastructure and London's tallest building the Shard, where Arup acted as engineers. …