The application of creative imagination and scientific principles to design buildings and infrastructure.
For many, the ‘Art of Engineering’ is primarily in visual form, via drawings and sketches. To me, however, it is the art of problem solving within which sketches, drawings, calculations and presentations (visual and/or verbal) would sit in our ‘gallery’. As an Engineer, we face the challenge of achieving a client’s vision within the restrictions of science, legislation and cost. Add to this, a design team of different specialisms and there becomes quite a complex problem to solve.
Undertaking calculations to prove the adequacy of our design is one part of our role, however utilising our imagination, creative skill and, of course, our ‘engineering judgement’ is how we demonstrate our art form. This doesn’t necessarily mean a bespoke solution, in fact cost wise that will be the last resort, but rather a knowledge of the many proprietary products on the market that we could configure to achieve the end goal.
In these days of computer modelling and analysis so much can be automated, however this only assists with checking our numerical design and clash detection. The true skill and art is interpreting this data and utilising it to complement the work of the design team to produce a design appreciated for its form and function. This could be reconfiguring a floor structure to minimise the structural depth, detailing a buried SuDs system that maximises site space or designing a street to encourage footfall back into city centres. When work starts on site our problem solving doesn’t stop but in fact can become more complex. Design changes, client changes, contractor changes and unexpected site constraints, when some aspects of the design are set in stone (hypothetically and actually), mean our art may require to be more creative.
Therefore, for me, the ‘Art of Engineering’ is utilising our creative skill to solve complex design problems in the delivery of buildings and infrastructure. In our cities we are constantly surrounded by the ‘Art of Engineering’, not always immediately visible. My home city Glasgow has many great examples, particularly the old buildings and streets that have now been re-engineered to accommodate modern life. A great example of civic art!