Cecil Balmond to deliver 2010 Bawa Memorial Lecture

By David Robson

Cecil Balmond will return to his native Sri Lanka to deliver the 2010 Bawa Memorial Lecture at the Bishop's College hall at 7.00 pm on Monday, May 31.

Cecil Balmond was born in 1943 in Colombo but moved to Kandy when his father was appointed Registrar of the University of Peradeniya. He was a pupil of Trinity College Kandy and later studied engineering in the University of Colombo. After living briefly in Nigeria he moved to Britain and continued his studies in the University of Southampton and at Imperial College London.

In 1968 Balmond joined the world-renowned engineering and design firm of Ove Arup and Partners in 1968 and cut his teeth on the famous Sydney Opera House which was designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzen but was engineered by Arup. He joined the Arup board in 1998 and founded the firm's 'Advanced Geometry Unit' in 2000. He is now a fellow and deputy chairman of the company.

Balmond made his name initially as a structural design consultant working with some of the leading architects of the day. He was Jim Stirling's main consultant for the Staatsgallerie in Stuttgart in the late 1970s and worked with Rem Koolhaas on over twenty separate projects including the Rotterdam Kunsthal and the Seattle Public Library. What endeared him to these architects was not simply his skill as an engineer but his capacity for imaginative and innovative design, his ability to 'think out of the box'.

Balmond finally cast off his image of 'backroom boy' when he acted as the co-designer for a series of temporary summer pavilions which have been built each year since 2001 beside the Serpentine Gallery in London's Hyde Park. Perhaps the most remarkable of these was done in collaboration with Japanese architect Toyo Ito and took the form of a simple rectangular pavilion which was deconstructed by an interweaving of asymmetrical criss-crossing supports. This offered a graphic illustration of Balmond's theory of 'non-linear' design.

In similar fashion he collaborated with artist Anish Kapoor on 'Marsyas' a monumental installation in London's Tate Modern in 2002 and they have since worked together on a similar public art installation in Teesside.

These projects have enabled Balmond to break away and he now works more and more as an independent designer, as for instance when building a spectacular footbridge at Coimbra in Portugal.
Balmond has published a number of reflective books on design, amongst them and 'No. 9' (1998), 'Informal: New Structure in Architecture' (2002) and 'Element' (2007). He is also much in demand as a teacher and is currently the Kenzo Tange Visiting Professor at Harvard, the Saarinen Professor at Yale and the Cret Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Scool of Design.

His work was exhibited in 2007 in the famous Louisiana Museum in Denmark and a special show entitled 'H_edge was held in Chicago in 2009. His latest exhibition is entitled 'Element' and is currently to be seen in Tokyo.

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