How do we prioritise elegance as well as strength and safety?
When it comes to engineering, the focus is often on safety and durability which is why I was interested to see that fellow structural engineer and well-regarded bridge designer Ian Firth is talking this week about ‘The Elegance of Bridges”.
He speaks tomorrow at City University as part of Clerkenwell Design Week. He will emphasise that as engineers we are used to designing for safety, strength and stability and yet elegance and long-lasting aesthetic appeal can be overlooked.
I agree with him on this and it is true that often, mediocre designs are tolerated when it would be much more appropriate to design something elegant and timeless. I have been fortunate in my career to have worked on several stadiums, racecourse stands and other beautiful architectural buildings where we were able to produce aesthetically pleasing structural designs.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all new bridge designs were as timeless as a Venetian canal bridge or a historic bridge over the Thames?
Ian comments, “For too long, university education of civil and structural engineers has paid little, if any, attention to the aesthetic aspects of the things we build.”
“It is as if the only thing that matters to a designer is selecting the right grade of material or devising a logical load path. The appearance of the structures we build matters greatly and it is vital that in educating our future designers some attention is given to the factors that lead to elegant or ugly solutions. “
“This is not only the architect’s domain, and we must equip engineers to address these important issues too.”
If you’re London based, you’ll probably have seen the modern Bridge of Aspiration, which Ian worked on, that runs between the Royal Ballet School and the Royal Opera House over Floral Street in Covent Garden. He also worked on the Inner Harbour Bridge in Copenhagen, as well as numerous bridges all over the world, and many steel box girder structures in the UK.
The lecture is at 6.30pm tomorrow – Wednesday 23rd May. I’m sure it will be well worth attending, and the accompanying exhibition showcases examples of design excellence.
You can find out more and register for a free place at the event here.
I am not linked to the event in any way, but spotted it and thought it might be of interest to you.
Meanwhile, if you are in need of structural assistance on a forthcoming project, please do get in touch with us on 020 8102 7974.