The evolution of structures

As a practice committed to investing our time to support undergraduates and the future talent for structural engineering, we spent half a day with students from the University of Greenwich discussing how the integration of landscape design with structural engineering design is necessary for successful and holistic projects.

Whether it is selecting the right location, creating a natural environment internally or externally or simply getting the infrastructure right – the two disciplines mutually support each other.

Throughout the session we talked through the principles of structural design and how the earliest known large buildings – the ancient pyramids – are still among the most astonishing structures in the world today. In fact, we gained some new knowledge ourselves. Take the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Giza). Built in the 26th century B.C – even by today’s modern construction methods, the precision used then is impressive.  Standing at 146 meters high and a 230 sqm base, the accuracy of the pyramid’s workmanship is such that the four sides of the base have an average error of only 58 millimetres in length.

During the session, we discussed everything from the development of the Roman amphitheatres to new infrastructure for the Industrial Revolution, particularly innovation in bridge design, whilst discussing how we develop engineering principles and the importance of integrating our design with the landscape architecture.

One key outcome from the workshop is that some things haven’t changed. Even in the earliest stages of structural design and placemaking, it was deemed important to find an appropriate site, obtain the most desirable and appropriate local building materials such as stone, continue to be innovative like the Romans (who created 3D version domes), and manage the workforce to deliver these magnificent structures” says Hannah Smith, CampbellReith.

The evolution of structural engineering has taken place by combining great minds and techniques over hundreds of years. Whether this is Galileo experimenting with material strength to understand the stress distribution in a cantilever or Robert Hooke defining that materials are elastic with the stress proportional to imposed strain (a concept he developed in 1660 which underpins all structural theory even today), we can only achieve if we experiment and collaborate to find new and better ways! Like the engineers and architects of the past, the students we worked with had the same energetic, curious minds and the talent to help us break new ground in the future.

Thank you for allowing us to come to the University of Greenwich, meet the next generation of landscape architects, and discuss a subject we’re passionate about.