Highlights from Future of Design London 2023

On September 21, 2023, the IABSE British Group hosted the highly anticipated “Future of Design” conference at Imperial College London. This gathering brought together around 80 delegates, including students, young design professionals, and leading engineers, to delve into the transformative changes driving the evolution of design and the future of our built environment.

The conference boasted an impressive lineup of speakers who are making waves in their respective domains. Julia Barfield (Marks Barfield Architects) kicked off the day by delving into the concept of ” a circular, regenerative future,” highlighting the importance of sustainability and redevelopment in our industry. Jorg Stamm (Jorg Stamm Bamboo Construction) enlightened us on innovation in bamboo. Travelling all the way from his home in Colombia, he showcased the incredible potential of bamboo in construction and design. Insights on “life-long design strategies” were shared by Manja van de Worp (YIP Structural Engineering), who was keen to emphasise the significance of long-term design approaches. While Mark Tillett’s (Heyne Tillett Steel) talk showcased the artistry and innovation in the refurbishment of structures, Moritz Meiselbach (schlaich bergermann partner) explored “Sustainable Approaches to Concrete Design”. All of the speakers were presented with questions and readily engaged in further discussions throughout the day.

One of the conference’s highlights was the engaging workshop hosted by Jenny Haines and Dan Cole, Senior Structural Engineers at Webb Yates Engineers. This workshop took attendees on a journey through form-finding techniques for designing efficient structures. From historical context, featuring legends like Heinz Isler and Antoni Gaudí, to modern computational approaches. Participants got stuck in to the practical activities, including building physical structural models and mastering hand-drawn graphic statics for bridge design. Jenny and Dan’s passion for parametric modelling and digital design approaches shone through as they discussed their efforts to optimize buildings and reduce carbon through innovative methods.

The conference concluded with a panel discussion on the role of AI in design, and featured experts Dr. Alice Cicirello, Dr. Christian Málaga-Chuquitaype, Dr. Luke Whale, and Peter Debney. These specialists dissected the ever-evolving landscape of artificial intelligence and its profound impact on the future of design. It was a fascinating exploration of the intersection of technology and creativity, with a great deal of participation from the audience too. The panel were also involved in adjudicating this year’s essay competition, which was based in the role of AI in engineering projects and held in the run-up to the conference. We were thrilled to announce the winner and present their prize during the event.

After thanks was given to all by David Knight (Chair of IABSE British Group), attendees had the chance to unwind and network at the Zetland Arms pub. They enjoyed drinks and food until long into the evening; forming professional connections and continuing discussions sparked during the conference.

Thanks must be given to the organising committee, comprising Cameron Archer-Jones, Laura Bellamy, Javier Cañada Pérez-Sala, Harry Forbes, Luke Lapira, and Floss Willcocks. Additionally, the generous support of sponsors; Robert Bird Group and Imperial College London, played a crucial role in the event’s success. If your company is interested in supporting the 2024 IABSE Future of Design Conference, please reach out to IABSE.

The future of design continues to evolve, and these gatherings serve as catalysts for innovation, collaboration, and a brighter, more sustainable built environment. Stay tuned for more exciting developments in the world of design!