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Dr Michael Cook: oration

Read Professor Kemi Adeyeye's oration on Doctor Michael Cook for the honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering in April 2017.


Dr Michael Cook is a leading structural engineer who, from his early pioneering research work here at the University of Bath, has made a significant contribution to the design of many innovative buildings, to the development of a thriving international consultancy practice (BuroHappold) and to the reputation of the profession.

He obtained his BA in Engineering at the University of Cambridge in the summer of 1977. Shortly afterwards, he joined a newly–formed research group (in what was then the Department of Architecture and Building Engineering) at the University of Bath, undertaking research and development into air-supported structures. During this time, he worked with Ted Happold, Chris Williams, Mike Barnes and many of the founders of the newly-formed Bath-based practice, BuroHappold. Much of his work involved collaboration with Frei Otto, whose philosophy of nature-centred design made a profound and lasting impact.

On completing his PhD, Mike joined BuroHappold in 1982 as a Graduate. Progressing quickly, he became the Director responsible for the development of Building Engineering within BuroHappold world-wide and became the Chairman of the practice in 2011.

Indeed, he has made the most of his time at BuroHappold, leading the design of many award-winning projects in the UK, and abroad. His international design and engineering prowess and those of his team are renowned and recognisable through iconic buildings, which are too many to list but include the British Museum Great Court in London, Smithsonian Museum in Washington, the main railway terminus in Dresden, Sage Music Centre in Gateshead, the Pyramid of Peace and the Khan Shatyr in Kazakhstan. Several of these projects are studied by students and professionals worldwide and have been awarded prizes for outstanding design by the Institution of Structural Engineers.

Dr Cook’s professional work is clearly world-leading and two further qualities are worth highlighting. These are his commitment to enhancing the reputation of his profession and his personal investment in spreading the passion for engineering design to future generations. He has maintained positive connections with many Schools of Architecture and Engineering, including at the University of Bath, since 1983. During his visits, he will happily work with students on projects, take part in design reviews and deliver guest lectures.

He is Adjunct Professor of Creative Design at Imperial College and External Examiner at the Architectural Association. He has chaired the Education Committee of the IStructE and was a member of the Education Committee of the Royal Academy of Engineering. He is Trustee of the Happold Foundation, a charity registered for the promotion of education, research and training in fields applicable to the design of the built environment.

His passion for the profession also includes sharing the message that engineering design is about positively integrating nature into the human-made world. On this topic, he makes regular contributions to the press, radio and television. He was a recipient of the IABSE Milne Medal for his contributions to structural design in 2009, following his lecture entitled: Natural Engineering.

Dr Cook’s career inspires us because it reflects his fascination with structures inspired by nature, the flow of creative, integrated design from concept to detail and the importance of good collaboration between architects and engineers. He and BuroHappold have an under-lying ethos of research-led innovation and practice, which fully aligns with the founding principles of our joint Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, now celebrating its 50th Anniversary within the University of Bath.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I present to you Dr Michael Cook, who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa.

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