Thursday, July 05, 2007

Engineers can be creative too
"The traditional role of the engineer is to perform, so to speak, the ideas of the architect." So says Anish Kapoor, an artist. If you think structural engineers are dull number-crunchers, a recent New Yorker profile of Cecil Balmond may change that. He's a trustee at Arup, a huge firm with offices in 37 countries that is widely recognized for its work on the Sydney Opera House and several new buildings in Beijing. The lengthy article shows how Balmond has collaborated with many great architects, including Philip Johnson, Rem Koolhaus, Daniel Libeskind, Alvaro Siza and Toyo Ito. Particularly riveting is the story of the Portuguese National Pavilion, designed by Siza for Expo '98. "The pavilion consists of a simple two-story box with a large covered entrance plaza at one end," writes David Owen. Balmond proposed covering the boxes with a "thin, curving sheet of concrete, suspended above like a broad hammock." A prominent Portugese engineer didn't believe it would stay up. After all, Balmond was proposing that 2,000 tons of concrete in a seven-inch layer hover above the heads of visitors. It worked, of course. The details are all in the June 25 edition of the magazine. The full article isn't online, but an abstract and slideshow are available. It's worth tracking down. (Photo by Arup)

1 comment:

John Dwyer said...

I love the building image. It's one of my favorite buildings in the world. Built as part of the World Expo in Lisbon, it sits in a sea of starchitecture and makes all the other buildings look like screaming teenagers. It's so simple, modest and utterly breathtaking. It is truly a beautiful marriage of architecture and engineering.