Ted Happold

Professor Sir Edmund Happold (1930–1996), better known as Ted Happold, was a Professor of Biochemistry at the Leeds University, a Structural Engineer and founder of Buro Happold. After a grammar school education, he studied geology at the University of Leeds. He was directed to work as an agricultural labourer and then truck driver and dragline operator. This aroused his interest in construction, so he returned to Leeds University, where he achieved a BSc in Civil Engineering in 1957. After graduation, he spent a short time in the office of Alvar Aalto before joining Ove Arup and Partners on the recommendation of architect Basil Spence. At Ove Arup and Partners he worked with Povl Ahm, engineer for St Michael's Cathedral in Coventry.

His Inspiration:

    His personal gifts of perception and imagination, in engineering and negotiation distinguished his early career. Ted held a lifelong passion for lightweight structures and worked on a number of outstanding tensile projects throughout the world during his career. Interaction between the practice and engineering research at the University of Bath was the basis of his ability to innovate. Many of the innovative projects upon which he worked, such as the gridshell for Mannheim with architect Frei Otto, served to influence the design of contemporary projects, such as the award winning Weald and Downland Open Air Museum and the visitor centre for Savill Garden. The engineering theme, which engaged Ted's enthusiasm for longest, was that of the lightweight structures. Providing the lightest structure, for and unobstructed space was the idea he strived for most of his life.

His Philosophy:
    Ted believed passionately in integrating different disciplines to create better design solutions. At the University of Bath, he restructured courses so that students from different design disciplines, architecture, building services and structural engineering, rubbed shoulders and studied together because they shared courses. In his practice, he soon had multidisciplinary groups combining their knowledge to produce integrated design solutions, thereby creating more elegant, economically attractive and environmentally efficient buildings. For him, “ Engineering takes scientific and traditional knowledge of the physical and human environment, together with an understanding of construction methods and the market to join clients, architects, contractors and others in providing solutions to problems. It is about economy and value”.

His Impact — His projects:

  • Pompidou Centre Paris – France
  • Hyde park Barracks London
  • Tierpark Hellabrunn Bavarian Munich



Light weight Structures by Sir Edmund Happold:

Ted Happold was a leader in the field of lightweight and tensile structures and Buro Happold has as a result undertaken a large number of tensile and other lightweight structures since it’s founding, including the Millennium Dome. In 1973, before the founding of Buro Happold, Edmund Happold, Ian Liddell, Vera Straka, Peter Rice and Michael Dickson established a lightweight structures research laboratory corresponding to Frei Otto's similar research institute at the university of Stuttgart. Ted Happold was the first to introduce ethylenetetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) as a cladding material and the outcomes of the research carried out by the laboratory led to the development of the designs for the Mannheim Multihall gridshell and a number of landmark fabric structures in the Middle East and the UK, allowing the new building forms to become generally accepted by architects and clients.

Buro Happold's early projects ranged from designing giant fabric umbrellas for Pink Floyd concerts to the Munich Aviary and the Mannheim Multihalle, both with Frei Otto, an architect who repeatedly worked with Buro Happold on projects which pioneered lightweight structures. The Mannheim Multihalle was a timber gridshell of 50 x 50mm lathes of hemlock of irregular form, depending on the elasticity of spring washers at the joints for its flexible form. It was one of the first major uses of structural gridshells. The Venezuela Pavilion at Expo 2000 in Hanover, consisting of fabric 'petals' which could open and close according to weather conditions. Following the development of fabric structures expertise on the projects with Frei Otto, Buro Happold was instrumental in further developing the knowledge and technology of fabric structures. With Bodo Rasch, a protégé of Frei Otto and drawing on experience from the Pink Floyd canopies, they designed folding, umbrella-like canopies to shade the courtyard of Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (The Mosque of the Prophet) in Medina, Saudi Arabia. They also designed the, at the time, largest fabric canopy in Europe at the Ashford Designer Outlet in the UK. This development of fabric structures expertise culminated in Buro Happold, with a team led by Ian Liddell and with Paul Westbury, designing the Millennium Dome, the world's largest fabric roof and the first building of its type. The expertise in wooden gridshell structures has resulted in the design of structures such as the Weald and Downland Museum and the Savill Building in Windsor Great Park. Buro Happold has also completed the designs of a number of cardboard structures, notably the Japan Pavilion for Expo 2000 in Hanover with Shigeru Ban and Frei Otto, consisting of a gridshell of paper tubes (the structure was reinforced with steel in order to comply with fire regulations, though the tubular structure was itself structurally sufficient). The firm has worked with Shigeru Ban on a number of other projects. Another design in cardboard was the Westborough School cardboard classroom in Westcliff.

A legend Remembered:

Ted's integrity to his Quaker values and the relationships built by following these values, were long lasting. With these bonds of trust, the shared confidence grew that was necessary to explore originality in science, technology, collaboration and design. Ted wrote of engineers: "Their craft is intensively creative, at its best it is art in that it extends people's vision of what is possible and gives them new insights. But the aesthetic produced is bare (meaning unfinished). It may not have been seen before and is more likely to relate to a natural rather than historic precedent. This is what I mean by engineering design as a technological idea, as distinct from a visual style or fashion."