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Navigating the Muddiness of Design Engineering
Making buildings and cities has often unleashed a false dichotomy between the arts and science, resulting in the rise of structural engineers in particular who have used newfound powers of technology, in the last 25 years to grow their own discipline. In designing a practice during such conditions, it is very clear that what I have tried hard to ensure, is that our ideology and practice does not lose sight of the fact that I started with a very deep immersion in a single discipline and any value of our work must be derived from that position. Without that firm knowledge, I could not legitimately make a contribution to the interaction between our work and that of the Architect, who all start from very many different positions in defining their work and its contribution to society. This position has undoubtedly meant that we have had to learn to banish engineering behaviours that are perceived to be binary, decisive and polarising to give way to aspects of aesthetics, linguistics and technical spaces, that are essential to cope with challenges society faces. It is this that makes what we do quite “muddy “ at times, not only to those who work with us, but even to our own staff who have resisted switching disciplines and recognise when what we do ceases to be important…
I will attempt to talk about work that endeavours to show this approach, its failure and success - both in practice but also in the academies I have been fortunate to teach in as a design focused Engineer and Educator.