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Engineering and Emotion

Tuesday 20th October 2009 @ 19:00

Non-Member: £12.00 ; Staff: £5.00 ; Student: £3.00


Chris Wise, Master of the Royal Designers for Industry

Chris Wise holds radical ideas about engineering and art and how they affect society. His lectures are exciting and challenging - and not to be missed.

Chris Wise is one of the leading engineers of our times. Designer of outstanding bridges, buildings and other structures, he holds challenging views on the role of designers in society, the influence of computers on the design process and the practical training of engineers.

He has achieved fame not only for his TV films but also for his elegant structures. Appearing on BBC2's Secrets of Lost Empires he set out to build ancient structures including recreating Caesar's crossing of the Rhine, a roof over the Coliseum in Rome and a Medieval siege engine. No mean feat in front of the cameras and with no drawings to work from.

He is well known as a practical engineer particularly for his work on the beautiful flat suspension bridge that carries pedestrians between Tate Modern and St Paul's Cathedral. Its initial teething problems earned it the sobriquet, 'the wobbly bridge' but early problems have now been overcome and it is in the 'A' list of London attractions. His current projects are just as bold and intriguing. He is structural engineer for Europe's tallest building (and the first ecological skyscraper in the world), Commerzbank Tower, Frankfurt; Italy's tallest building designed with Renzo Piano, to be completed in 2010; the conversion of a historic building in Barcelona; a regeneration scheme for Greenwich wharf; and the engineering of the 2012 Olympics Velodrome; the Infinity Bridge at Stockton on Tees opened this year; and many more.

Master of the RSA's* Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry 2007 to 2009, Trustee of the Design Council, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, previously Ove Arup Foundation Professor of Civil Engineering Design at Imperial College.

In his inaugural address to the Royal Designers for Industry, Chris reflected on creative life in a world released from the tyranny of mathematics by computer. He discussed how designers think today and how they engage with society through their work and how engineers can release their potential to design solutions for climate change, population growth, wealth and an ageing population.

Chris Wise believes engineers should be trained practically - taken out into the field and given pieces of concrete and steel to build a bridge in 24 hours, for example. These were teaching techniques which were piloted in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Imperial College. He believes that engineering is an art not a science.

*RSA: the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.

Venue: Sir Alexander Fleming Building G16