2017 is The Structural Awards’ 50th year. There have been many great projects recognised with the Institution’s ultimate structural engineering accolade - but which holds the most important place as a cultural icon?

To mark 50 years of The Structural Awards we’re asking you to vote for the greatest cultural icon ever to have won the “Supreme Award for Structural Engineering Excellence” (or the “Structural Special Award” that preceded it).

Below we’ve picked five famous structures which have won Supreme or Special Awards. Many were initially controversial, but all have come to be cherished icons for their home cities. Vote for your favourite, or suggest another winner we’ve missed out.

Sydney Opera HouseImage: Wikimedia Commons, Shannon Hobbs

Sydney Opera House – 1973, Ove Arup & Partners

Writing in The Structural Engineer, Ove Arup said that the Opera House “is all things to all men. It is a dream that never was, a structure that could barely be built, an architectural tour de force, a politician’s nightmare, a population’s talking point and much more.” 

The structure is most famed for its roof, composed of main shells, side shells and louvre shells. The height of the largest shell is 54m, and the overall width of the main shells range from 22m to 57m. The structural challenge was extraordinarily complex, and was only made possible by early computer modelling and the genius of the engineers.

Centre PompidouImage: Wikimedia Commons, Rene Bongard

Centre Pompidou (Paris) – 1977, Ove Arup & Partners 

Famous for its exposed, colour-coded ducts, pipework, goods lifts, fire stairs, escalators and walkways, the Pompidou Centre’s engineering team included the great Peter Rice, and is an example of engineering design made central to building form. 

The Centre measures 164.4m by 60m, and is 45.5m high on the east elevation. Each storey is 7m high and column-free. The primary structure is based on two rows of 14 full-height steel columns, one row on each long façade. 2.85m deep x 44.8m wide steel trusses span between them, across the width of the building, supporting the floors. 

Lotus TempleImage: Wikimedia Commons, Nikkul

Baha’i House of Worship (New Delhi) – 1987, Flint & Neill Partnership

This extraordinary structure, modelled on the opening Lotus flower, consists of a central hall surrounded by a podium, surmounting the basement and supported by a system of curved beams. The primary supports to the superstructure consist of inner columns carrying a circular ring penetrated by arches, and columns beneath the outer ends of the entrant junctions.

Three groups of nine petals spring from the podium and the arch ring, the inner petals joined by a system of radial star beams. The interior dome comprises 54 ribs with shells between, springing from the crowns of the arches and supporting the hub of the inner roof.

Millennium DomeImage: Wikimedia Commons, Debot

Millennium Dome (London) – 2000, Buro Happold 

The Dome, initially intended to be a temporary structure, encompasses a volume of 2.2million cubic meters within its canopy, with a circumference of 1km and height of 52m. 

Built on contaminated land and over vents for London’s Blackwall Tunnel, this challenging site produced an icon for London - an apparently simple structural concept of tensioned steel cables arranged radially on the surface, held in space at the nodes by hanger and tie-down cables at 25m intervals. Between the cables, tensioned, coated fabric is used as cladding. Each of the 12 masts is 90m long and weighs approximately 95 tonnes. 

London EyeImage: Wikimedia Commons, Mike Peel

British Airways London Eye – 2001, Babtie, Allott & Lomax

London Eye designers had to innovate for what was a testing structural design challenge: the Eye would be comparatively light, making it potentially susceptible to wind loading; the Spindle would be a massive structural element, at 25m long, with a 2.1m diameter, and the cantilever part would have to carry the entire weight of the Eye’s rim, capsules and passengers.
Transport and erection of the structure was crucial to the overall design: the bulk of the wheel was transported from Rotterdam in six pieces and hauled upright from a horizontal position over the River Thames. A classic example of the interaction between design and construction.

The Structural Awards 2017 shortlist is now live. #StructuralAW17

The Ultimate Structural Awards Cultural Icon What is the greatest ever Structural Awards Cultural Icon? The poll is closed.
Sydney Opera House, Australia
Pompidou Centre, France
Lotus Temple, India
Millennium Dome, Great Britain
London Eye, Great Britain

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