Peter Thompson started at Ove Arup and Partners in London, 1950, and during his career worked as a structural engineer on iconic projects including the Sydney Opera House.
He worked for Arup for 50 years; starting as employee number 28, ‘Junior Draftsmen’ on two pounds and five shillings per week. Peter qualified as a structural engineer in 1965, and went on to establish Arup in Perth, Western Australia in 1969. He became Partner in 1971, and was awarded major projects including OCBC Centre, Singapore, Allendale Square, Perth and Murdoch University, Perth.
Peter was co-leader of Sydney Arup offices from 1974-1994, and was appointed as Adjunct Professor, Department of Built Environment, UNSW in 1999, and Visiting Fellow –Warren Centre, University of Sydney from 2005-2007.
His earlier life included two years (1954-56) in the National Service, Royal Air Force where he trained as a radio and wireless engineer. Peter was sent to Egypt in July 1955 and then to Cyprus in December 1955. In August 1956 he returned to England and to Ove Arup & Partners.
In 1958 Peter was asked to work on the Sydney Opera House project. He worked on all aspects of the SOH project in the London office for more than five years, working “the cream of the structural engineering profession” he said.
In the mid-sixties Arup paid for Peter to go to Imperial College, London, for a year’s post-graduate training on full pay. “This was a fantastic opportunity for me which I grasped with both hands.”
After Imperial College Peter worked on the redevelopment of the London Stock Exchange.
Peter and his family arrived in Sydney, Australia on 7 August 1968.
“The Australian Codes of Practice had just become metricated and based on limit state design and I had to become familiar with this. The main advantage, however, was that I was exposed to the Australian way of doing things with Michael Lewis to guide me. Relationships within the general building industry were much more informal than in London and time seemed much more of the essence. My ‘Australianisation’ period in Sydney was really a godsend.”
In January 1969, the Thompson family moved to Perth.
An excerpt from Peter’s memoirs:
“In Perth, during my initial rounds of potential clients, I called on Taylor Woodrow, contractors well known to me from the UK who were involved in civil structure works in the north-west of the State.
I remember that day.
“It was a Thursday and I was wearing my City and Guilds tie. This was a hangover from my time at Imperial College when wearing of college ties on Thursdays was encouraged. When I met the Managing Director, John Wilson, it was a Thursday and he was also wearing the same tie. It transpired that he had attended the same course as I at Imperial College but two years earlier.
This turned out to be serendipity at its best.”
Peter, along with Keith Pollock, Adrian Roberts, and Dan Ryan (who was a leader of the Perth office) established a successful business. Peter retired in 2000.
Video courtesy of ARUP Australasia