Engineers from Waterman Structures are helping London families "build with fabrics" this weekend, as part of Open House Families. Here Ottavia Rispoli, Associate Director, explains more.

We will run two “Build with Fabrics!” workshops on the 10 June in Cabot Square, Canary Wharf. One in the morning and one in the afternoon – both are suitable for children of seven plus.

The activities will see families create small models of tensile structures, the idea being to excite them about “form-finding” structures in general. We find this an engaging activity for children of all ages because it intuitively helps them understand how to adjust the tension in the fabrics to achieve a perfectly stable structure. They can achieve very elegant shapes by adopting colourful fabrics and people cut-outs! 

We employ about 300 engineers in London: eight will be running the activity on the day. As a multidisciplinary practice we have both structural and environmental engineers joining us, all of whom share the same passion for engineering. 

We were involved in this event last year and it was incredibly rewarding to be able to share our passion for engineering with the children. It’s important for us to raise awareness about what engineers do, and hopefully inspire a new generation to become the much-needed designers of the future. 

Structural engineers’ contribution to creating functional, safe, environmentally sound and future proof buildings is not as well-known as the work of architects - but it makes a big difference when engineers have the opportunity to speak to children and parents face-to-face.

By talking about our experiences working on London landmarks and regeneration schemes (like Westfield Shopping Centre, Nine Elms and Bluewater) we can show how many exciting challenges are involved in engineering careers, and how much innovation and creativity there is in everything we do. As an industry we can do more in this area: by visiting schools and universities; taking part in career fairs, offering work experience and apprenticeship opportunities and through online activity – sharing what we do through social media in a fun, engaging way.

It is also really invaluable experience for our younger employees, who are volunteering for the Open City event – it’s their chance to act ambassadors for the engineering profession, which helps their development as professionals.


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