Session three - engineering

The Shape My City group met for their third workshop on the 5th May. The theme was structural engineering and the group were joined by structural engineer Ingrid Chauvet (RISE Structures). To begin with the group were given the task to create a bridge structure using no 30 pieces of spaghetti and 25 mini marshmallows. The strict brief was that the bridge would need to span a gap of 10cm, be free standing and able to support the weight of a glue stick. Prompted by Amy’s reminder of the strength of a triangle shape, there were a range of sturdy responses and all the designs successfully met the brief.

Ingrid then gave an interesting and informative account of the choices she has made regarding her education and career. She began by explaining how she had been inspired as an 18 year old when she made her first visit to a construction site, and this ultimately led to her undertaking an undergraduate degree in engineering. After graduating, she worked in London and then in Bristol (mainly in timber framing). She emphasised the benefits of knowing about and being interested in other areas of design, especially considering that her career has evolved and her role expanded over the years to include more time spent building relationships with architects and clients, which requires a good general knowledge of the whole design and build process. When asked what she considered to be the best elements of her job, Ingrid reflected that she thought working with people was the most exciting. While the maths and applied science involved in the process is black and white, it is the people that ensure the work is varied, completed to a high standard and problems are solved when things go wrong.

Amy asked Ingrid what advice she would give her sixteen year old self. She emphasised the importance of being open and naturally curious, as well as to not be afraid to gain experience in a number of different areas and professions until you are sure you find the path that excites you most.

 For the design task for the workshop, the group were asked to consider the design for a bridge to replace the newly erected (and somewhat underwhelming) blue bridge to the new Bristol Arena site. General comments were that the existing bridge design could commended for embodying the history of the railway and industrial nature of the area. However, the group felt that as the gateway into the proposed new arena, the design needed to be more iconic. 

It was apparent that for group one, this was a prime consideration in the design of their bridge, which was spectacular. Three separate yet interlocking pathways, in red, blue and green corresponded to the different routes for pedestrians, cyclists and cars. In order to try and discourage cars, the two weaving pathways going up high and over, with the best view out onto the arena and surrounding area, would be for the cyclists and pedestrians, rewarding them for their low carbon travel choice! At night the two ends of the bridge would emit a warm glow that could be seen for miles around, making the bridge a landmark destination in itself.

The second group’s design also featured two separate pathways, the route for cyclists and pedestrians elegantly suspended from the crossing for cars above. Imbedded in the design was the notion that the new part of the city would support the old, and vice versa. Thus, the group considered the socio-economic impact the Bristol Arena would have on the city as a whole, and felt it was important that this consideration was realised in the design of the bridge as a whole and so they created another landmark design.

The final group felt that the bridge design should embody and complement the natural curve of the river, so that a connection with nature could be felt when crossing the bridge. Similar to the first group, the pathway for cyclists and pedestrians would curve over the cars, thus giving them the best view.

All groups responded with great enthusiasm and skill to the design task at hand. Their designs showed a belief in the potential for well considered and striking design to positively impact an area under development/regeneration and our enjoyment of it. Another inspiring session!