Above: The Scale Rule Pavilion on May 23, the first day of Clerkenwell Design Week
Last year members of the Institution worked with Clerkenwell schoolchildren to design a Design Pavilion for Clerkenwell Design Week, as part of their Scale Rule education initiative. This year they have worked with local schools again, producing another amazing Pavilion design. Here the structural engineers behind the project, all workers at AKT II, discuss this year’s winner and their ambitions for the future.
Last year’s pavilion was a big expansion of the Scale Rule initiative, and saw us work with students from ten schools. From that everything has taken off. This year we’ve attracted many more volunteers, all professionals who want to be part of something different.
Scale Rule came about for two reasons: Firstly, we’re passionate about structural engineering and its virtues, but understand that it needs to encourage young people from more diverse backgrounds into the profession. Secondly, we really just enjoy building stuff, and it’s an outlet for that passion.
A design workshop underway - image by Erica Choi
The students get a lot out of it: even if they don’t go on to work in structural engineering or the design or construction industry, we’re arming them with powerful tools for future university and/or job applications, and skills for life after school. Part of Scale Rule’s ambition is to inspire kids by showing them their own potential - we want to instil a sense of self belief that some might be lacking.
Another part of our work is encouraging students from disadvantaged backgrounds to consider careers in the professions - so we’re selective about which schools we reach out to. We work with charities like The Access Project to be confident we’re reaching the right students.
The Pavilion design brief this year called for a structure which encouraged social interaction. In a world of technology where people communicate less, how can our built environment reverse the trend? During the workshops we were struck by the students’ unrestricted creativity and their confidence in presenting - they stood up in front of their peers and industry professionals and talked as if they were seasoned pros! They had a great ability to work in teams and were really open to constructive criticism. They all wanted to be there and they all wanted to work hard.
Their designs were always fantastically different and imaginative with great ideas around creating interactive and social spaces. It shows that creativity is inherent and begs the questions for we professionals: do we lose too much of that creativity in business and get bogged down by cost and construction constraints?
I think one of the successful key concepts behind this year’s winning design was the way it created an impromptu meeting place at the top of the viewing platform, as well as the visual burst of colour in people leaving their mark via the ribbons. I also think the judges may have wanted to test Scale Rule’s ability as they certainly chose the most challenging design!
Visitors to the Pavilion can pin coloured ribbon messages to the structure
The feedback from last year’s project was really positive – from local workers, St James’ Church (where The Pavilion stood during Clerkenwell Design Week), on social media and online design platforms. Hopefully we can live up to it this year! It’s hard to keep in touch with the students, but while lecturing in UCL’s Civil Engineering department this year we bumped into a previous Scale Rule student of ours who is just completing his first year of study!
We’re planning to roll out similar schemes in other regions: this summer we’re working closely with a team of engineers and architects in the West Midlands to run a similar design and build project in Birmingham. If the project is a success, we’re hoping that young professionals in other regions will be interested in organising similar events, with the support of the Institution’s education team and its young members. Things are looking promising, so watch this space.
This year the Institution is supporting Scale Rule with funding. Read more about ScaleRule and Clerkenwell Design Week.