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

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

Duncan Michael

Born 1937

Duncan Michael

Sir Duncan Michael, 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

  1. 1937 Born in Beauly, Inverness-shire, Scotland on 26 May
  2. 1942 Age: 5 Beauly village school
  3. 1955 Age: 18 University of Edinburgh, Civil Engineering
  4. 1956 Age: 19 Trained with Duncan Logan, contractors
  5. 1959 Age: 22 PhD, University of Leeds researching steel coal bunkers
  6. 1961 Age: 24 Lecturer, University of Leeds
  7. 1962 Age: 25 Engineer, Ove Arup and Partners, London
  8. 1962 Age: 26 Side shells engineer, Sydney Opera House
  9. 1966 Age: 29 Published research on linked tall shear walls
  10. 1969 Age: 32 Azadi Monument and other projects, Iran
  11. 1973 Age: 36 Opened office in Hong Kong
  12. 1977 Age: 40 Director, Ove Arup & Partners, Scotland
  13. 1979 Age: 42 Hopewell Centre, Hong Kong
  14. 1982 Age: 45 Shajiao C power station, China
  15. 1984 Age: 47 Opened California office
  16. 1984 Age: 47 Lloyds of London rebuilding
  17. 1984 Age: 47 Fellow, Royal Academy of Engineering
  18. 1987 Age: 50 Opened New York office
  19. 1990 Age: 53 British Library, London
  20. 1991 Age: 54 Opened office in Turkey
  21. 1994 Age: 57 Yapi Kredi Bankasi, Istanbul
  22. 1995 Age: 58 Chair of Arup Main Board and Trustees
  23. 1995 Age: 58 Trustee of Ove Arup Foundation charity
  24. 1996 Age: 59 Restructuring of Arup organisation
  25. 2000 Age: 63 Fellow of IESIS
  26. 2000 Age: 63 Gold Medallist, Institution of Strcutural Engineers
  27. 2000 Age: 63 Board member of The Housing Corporation
  28. 2001 Age: 64 Knight bachelor, for services to Engineering and Construction
  29. 2002 Age: 65 Founded Lydia Michael Trust, Scottish charity
  30. 2005 Age: 68 Fellow, Royal Society of Edinburgh
  31. 2008 Age: 71 Original member, Board of GB Social Housing
  32. 2009 Age: 72 Initial Trustee Director, Board of Useful Simple Trust
  33. 2016 Age: 79 Inducted into the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame on 7 October

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

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