Published: 15 September 2015
(Above) Last year's Structurally Found winners
Structurally Found is an interactive social media experience designed to get Londoners thinking about the incredible structural engineering that surrounds them. Structurally Found sets a list of eight structural elements (like #arch, #dome or #tunnel). All you have to do to take part is photograph of one of these elements and upload it to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the #structurallyfound hashtag - plus the name of the correctly identified element. The more engineering elements you snap and correctly tag, the greater the chance you have of winning an ipad! Linked to London’s Open House weekend on 19 and 20 September 2015, the initiative is sponsored by WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff. Here Niri Arambepola, a structural engineer, explains what it’s all about.
I think one of the reasons we typically don’t really think about structural engineering is because it’s so ubiquitous and we take it for granted. We expect that buildings will stand up and shelter us from the elements, and that bridges will span rivers and carry people and cars and trains. Only when something goes wrong do we notice, when really we should always find time to admire the amazing engineering which makes our daily lives possible.
Structural engineers have a hand in them all - from the houses we live in to the offices and schools where we work, from the bridges we cross to the tube tunnels we whizz through. The first entry we got for Structurally Found 2014 was a photo of a crane (#cantilever) which one participant had taken from his bedroom window - a brilliant example of how engineering surrounds us.
That’s why Luke Bramwell and I founded Structurally Found - to do more to show off the role of London’ engineering in a creative, fun way. The social media aspect means we’re making everyone involved part of a giant engineering conversation. Once a person has tweeted us a picture we have a team of engineers online just waiting to tweet them an interesting fact or even a cheeky hint as to where to find another element.
We’re really interested in inspiring the next generation of structural engineers as we need more bright young people going into the profession. We do this through social media and by sending out posters to every secondary school in London. In addition, this year we are speaking at school careers presentations.
Last year’s Structurally Found was a big success and we received 3000 entries. It was great that people got involved, some devoting their whole weekend to tracking down our structural elements. We were thrilled to see conversations taking off between participants and engineers on Twitter and Instagram, fulfilling our aim of getting London talking about engineering. Our participant survey following the event showed overwhelmingly positive feedback.
This year we want to make Structurally Found even bigger and better. We will have more engineers online and more engineers on the street chatting with the public. We have also been working closely with Open House so that our volunteers will be based in key Open House locations. Look out for us over the weekend, and take part if you can!
My top 5 London Structures:
The Place by London Bridge: I think the Shard’s 20 storey neighbour is a great example of some clever structural engineering gymnastics. The tube tunnels under the site limit where the foundations can go. As a result large sections of the building are hung from the top, and at the top the forces are directed to the parts of the building that actually have foundations, using sloping columns.
The Thames Tunnel: This was the first tunnel under the Thames and it was a pioneering work of civil engineering- using the newly invented tunnelling shield to build it. It was built by the Brunels, and they almost did it just because they could. This tunnel is still used now as part of the London Overground.
Image by Lars Plougmann, Wikicommons
Kings Cross Station Roof: Railway stations are traditionally cavernous spaces- in the past this was traditionally achieved using arches. The new Kings Cross Station roof is great because it achieves the same thing and has that Victorian station “feel” but in a modern way - by using a grid shell.
Exchange House: The huge arch on the façade of this City office building makes it instantly eye-catching, but if you stop and look at it for a moment you realise you can see exactly how the structure of the building is working. The arches (there are four in total) distribute the weight of the building to piers on either side- a bit like a bridge.
The Millennium Dome: It’s called a dome…but it’s not a dome! In a dome the entire structure works in compression, but the designers of the Millennium Dome recreated the dome shape but with the structure entirely in tension.
Image by James Jin, Wikkicommons