Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame

Sydney Opera HouseSydney Opera House, Australia. Duncan Michael's first project with Arup in 1962

Sir Duncan MichaelSir Duncan Michael (born 1937), structural engineer and global business leader

Engineering achievements

Duncan joined Ove Arup & Partners in 1962. In 1957 Arup had joined with Jorn Utzon to design the Sydney Opera House which was to be a highly complex construction, and Duncan joined the team that delivered this iconic structure. His part of the project was the 'side shells' which supported all the spherical roof surfaces as key elements of the project.

In his work on the Shahyad Aryamehr Monument in Tehran (1968) he used computers to enable the stonemasons to create the complex geometry regime in warped pieces of white marble. He won his reputation in Hong Kong by a series of repair projects for dangerous building sites on the slopes associated with the Po Shan disaster. His subsequent contribution helped to establish ambitious modern attitudes to building construction in Hong Kong.

He became a Main Board Director of Arup in 1977 at the age of 39. He became Chairman of the Board in 1995 and also of the Trustees 1995-2004. In 1995 he carried out the reformation of the company structure establishing five "blocks" led by self-governing boards responsible and empowered to build their areas of practice within the firm's culture.

Duncan has always recognised the importance of team work to deliver engineering products. He considers the attributes of an engineer in addition to technical competence are, humility, honesty, intelligence, imagination and courage with the understanding that it is a team effort that is required for success. Arup have always been committed to an integrated design approach for project delivery and Duncan was a staunch advocate of this approach.

He is a respected engineer, throughout the UK and internationally where he has been widely recognised and acknowledged. Throughout his career and now he is committed to the advancement of the academic education of engineering students through his lecturing and involvement with universities.

His Life

Age Event Year
Born in Beauly, Inverness-shire, Scotland on 26 May 1937
5 Beauly village school 1942
18 University of Edinburgh, Civil Engineering 1955
19 Trained with Duncan Logan, contractors 1956
22 PhD, University of Leeds researching steel coal bunkers 1959
24 Lecturer, University of Leeds 1961
25 Engineer, Ove Arup and Partners, London 1962
26 Side shells engineer, Sydney Opera House 1962
29 Published research on linked tall shear walls1966
32 Azadi Monument and other projects, Iran 1969
36 Opened office in Hong Kong 1973
40 Director, Ove Arup & Partners, Scotland 1977
42 Hopewell Centre, Hong Kong 1979
45 Shajiao C power station, China 1982
47 Opened California office 1984
47 Lloyds of London rebuilding 1984
47 Fellow, Royal Academy of Engineering 1984
50 Opened New York office 1987
53 British Library, London 1990
54 Opened office in Turkey 1991
57 Yapi Kredi Bankasi, Istanbul 1994
58 Chair of Arup Main Board and Trustees 1995
58 Trustee of Ove Arup Foundation charity 1995
59 Restructuring of Arup organisation 1996
63 Fellow of IESIS 2000
63 Gold Medallist, Institution of Strcutural Engineers 2000
63 Board member of The Housing Corporation 2000
64 Knight bachelor, for services to Engineering and Construction 2001
65 Founded Lydia Michael Trust, Scottish charity 2002
68 Fellow, Royal Society of Edinburgh 2005
71 Original member, Board of GB Social Housing 2008
72 Initial Trustee Director, Board of Useful Simple Trust 2009
79 Inducted into the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame on 7 October 2016

His Legacy

Sir Duncan Michael, educated in civil engineering in Scotland, reached the highest level in global consulting engineering through his excellence in structural engineering and business expertise, and applied his engineering approach and philosophy to change the structure of consulting engineers Arup during his time as Chairman. He also established and set in motion the process to have just one Arup globally, enabling the individual ex-Empire practices to merge with honour.

He expanded the diversity of skills for the richer quality of service on client projects, which allowed the company to develop, now represented in all parts of the world with over 13,000 employees and a turnover of over £1.3 billion. He ensured the Arup philosophy which includes the core values of quality, honesty, prosperity and creativity applied to all people within the organisation and beyond, appropriately and equitably, was locked into the Arup culture.

He has maintained his Scottish values throughout his career. His achievements were recognised by the award of a knighthood for services to engineering and construction in 2001.

More Information

Arup Legends: Duncan Michael
Download: Sir Duncan Michael's acceptance speech Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame, James Watt Dinner, 7 October 2016

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