Future of Design 2018 London

Paul Mills and Kirstin Walling report from the Future of Design 2018 in London:

The 13th IABSE Future of Design conference was held at Imperial College, London. The event, aimed at young aspiring engineers, this time focused on innovation in construction, the importance of collaboration in achieving this and inspiring the next generation of engineers through a series of talks, discussions and the paper and design competitions.

Ian Firth, Chairman of the British Group of IABSE, opened up proceedings, noting the fact that in his opinion the two most important words in IABSE were International and Engineering and that engagement with IABSE is a great opportunity to build an international network; bringing engineers together to events such as this.

Stuart Marsh, Structural Engineering team lead from SOM, started with the first talk on Collaboration in Construction – Collaborating beyond the design phase into construction. Stuart talked about the fact that in building engineering it is not as common to consider the construction phase, as is much more prevalent within bridge engineering. Stuart talked through his inspirations and projects he has worked on with SOM, the most notable being the Manhattan Loft Gardens in London, and how collaboration has been used to deliver successful projects making full use of technology in this process.

The second keynote was presented by Hector Beade-Pereda, bridge designer and associate at Knight Architects. He provided an interesting talk on ‘the route to good bridge design’ running through the history of bridge design and highlighting the key features that make good bridge design providing some interesting ideas ranging from symmetry of structure to public perception. Hector highlighted the importance of considering the context of the bridge in the form and design of the structure and to keep it simple.

After a coffee break and a chance to network with other delegates, the second session was chaired by David Knight, Director at Cake Industries. Mark Boyle, Structural Engineer at the Robert Bird Group, kicked off the second session talking on ‘Is the future of design modular?’. Mark provided some interesting insights into his thoughts on how he sees modular providing answers to our housing shortage and the unaffordability of properties for current and future generations. He emphasised that engineers need to get on board with the digital revolution otherwise the disruptors like Google will get there first.

Cato Dorum from the Norwegian public road administration presented his research. A major project in is underway in Norway to design 8 bridges to cross the fjords, the current method of crossing is by ferry and the whole journey take 21hrs. The introduction of bridges would half the journey time. Cato’s research focused on ship impact to the bridges and how best to prevent damage to the bridge.

Michael Thorogood from Eadon Consulting provided a different angle to his talk by starting with a video from 90s rapper Vanilla Ice and his talk was based on what he can remind Engineers and Architects to Stop, Collaborate and Listen. Michael demonstrated his thoughts on these points via his personal experience on projects in cases where he and his team needed to “Stop” and challenge the clients brief, “Collaborate” from the very start of the project and “Listen” to the client’s needs in order to provide the best solution possible.

After lunch we heard from the six shortlisted Young Designers Competition entrants chaired by DYSE’s Ed Dablin. Each gave a 10 minute presentation. The paper competition runner up was Expedition’s Charlie Cornish with his paper on footbridge design, and the winner of the paper competition was Ramboll’s Paul Jeffries with his paper on computational design and large scale optimisation.

An insightful and engaging discussion panel, chaired by Antony Oliver, debated the question ‘Innovation in Construction: Why is the construction industry so behind the curve and how can we move forwards?’. The panel was formed from four leading professionals from the industry: Mark Boyle (Robert Bird Group), Gavin White (Ramboll), Kate Young (Team 2100) and Kate Hall (HS2).

Chris Churchman of Churchman Landscape Architects presented on ‘The Future of Landscape Design’ providing a useful insight into the work Landscape Architects do – designing for space between buildings. He shared some of his top techniques, including for instance at Birmingham Interchange HS2 station car park to assist users in remembering where they have parked.

Kate Hall who has the task of being design director at HS2 gave an insightful talk on design thinking and the creative ways to solve a problem to get a better solution in the end. Giving people the time to go through a divergent thinking process, such as walking in people’s shoes and seeing the problem from their point of view may bring around a more coherent solution.

Simon Bourne finished off proceeding to give an insight into how bridges differ to buildings in structural engineering terms. He emphasised that it was crucial to understand these differences and that the unique nature of bridge engineering needs to be fully understood. Recent bridge failures in the media have highlighted this observation.

The evening reception was held at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, which provided a great environment for delegates to network and reflect on the inspiring talks of the day.

FOD London would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of all of the volunteers of the organising committee (Xavier Echegaray Jaile, Rebecca Fathers, Joao Serra and Victor Alvado Benitez). A big thank you the sponsors of the event: Cowi, Robert Bird Group, Ramboll, Eadon Consulting & Redaelli. Finally, thank you to all of the delegates that came along and helped make the conference a huge success.

The next Future of Design conference is to be held in Birmingham for the first time on 12th April 2019. For more information email paul.mills@arup.com.

Paul Mills and Kirstin Walling (Arup) | Part of the Organising Committee for the Future of Design Conference Birmingham 2019