Future of Design Edinburgh

Mark Saville reports from the Future of Design Edinburgh:

The 12th Future of Design conference was held at the University of Edinburgh, marking the first time the conference has been held in Scotland since Future of Design began in 2012. The event, aimed at young aspiring engineers, focused on the familiar theme of promoting excellence in the design and construction of ground breaking projects throughout the world.

Ed Dablin, of DYSE Structural Engineers, opened the conference with the opening address, before chairing the first session. The first key note presentation, by John Roberts and Tim Kelly of Laing O’Rourke, focused on the construction of the St. James’ Shopping centre redevelopment, currently taking place within the heart of Edinburgh city centre. The projects’ numerous construction challenges were highlighted including the construction of the 10m deep basement, whilst propping the rear of the existing John Lewis centre.


The second keynote, presented by Dr. Hazel McDonald from Transport for Scotland, presented an insight into the design philosophy currently utilised in the construction of new infrastructure projects throughout Scotland, namely the ‘presence of the structure should be in harmony with the landscape’. John Ward, of Robert Bird Group, closed the first session with an insight into the design and installation of an innovative new method of power generation, tidal stream energy, which is currently taking place off the north coast of Scotland.

The second session began with Ed McCann, from Expedition Engineering, providing a fascinating insight into how we can begin to reduce the £22bn a year’s worth of avoidable mistakes made within the construction industry. Martin Knight, director of Knight Architects, provided a unique take on how infrastructure can define an area, providing a sense of place. Martin illustrated how architecture and engineering is about serving people, first and foremost. Charles Cocksedge, of Aecom, presented an insightful talk on long span bridge failures including the 19th century suspension bridges of James Dredge which picked up on similar themes to that of Ed McCann’s of learning from past mistakes.

The young designers competition provided a stage for the shortlisted entrants to present their papers, in two groups. The winners from both groups were presented with a certificate by Brian Duguid and will receive a prize, sponsored by SOM.

Young Designers Competition Winners:

Group A – Eleanor Voss, Expedition Engineering, Swallow Tail Pavilion
Group B – Lily Pozzetti Holt, David Narro Associates, Reducing environmental risk: building without wet cementitious material

Brian Duguid, of Mott MacDonald, presented an interactive workshop which focussed on the theme of learning and what each delegate might like to learn at upcoming Future of Design conferences. This workshop also provided a stage for delegates to network and discuss the theme of learning.

As a last-minute change to the programme, Mark Bulmer of Aecom, stepped in to speak about the unique deck replacement works to the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver. Tight time constraints meant the construction work could only take place at night, with only one deck segment replaced per night.

Structure as Architecture, presented by Dmitri Jajich from SOM, provided a unique take on how the two contrasting disciplines can come together to create unique structural forms. Dmitri also presented a summary three projects which displayed the structure as a design feature, providing a clear understanding of how the building works, including the Glenstone II private art gallery in the US.

Learning from past mistakes was a popular theme at the conference as Bill Harvey, of Bill Harvey Associates, also spoke about the perils of false knowledge, and how our structural assumptions can greatly affect the accuracy of detailed design works. The final talk of the conference was presented by Liz Davidson from the Glasgow school of Art, who spoke about the ongoing restoration works of the iconic Mackintosh building following the devastating fire in 2014. Liz demonstrated how the renovation works will modernise the building, whilst retaining the iconic heritage of the original Mackintosh design.

The evening reception was held at the striking Dynamic Earth venue, providing a great environment for delegates to network and reflect on the inspiring talks.

FOD Edinburgh would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of all of the volunteers. A big thank you to the University of Edinburgh for providing an excellent venue for the day. Thank you to the sponsors for the event: SOM & Leca. And a final thank you to all of the delegates that came along and the helped make the conference another huge success.

Mark Saville, DYSE Structural Engineers