Above: The Queensferry Crossing under construction (Image source: Wikimedia Commons, by User John)

Our 2017 President, Ian Firth, is a world leading expert in bridge design and construction. Here he kicks off the New Year by looking at four exciting structural engineering projects, all due for completion during 2017. These are the first on a long list – look out for more updates from Ian during the year.

1. Queensferry Crossing, Scotland

This magnificent bridge will be the third to cross the Firth of Forth. Each well represents the technology of its century - the original Forth Bridge dates from the late 19th Century, carrying the railway in a majestic Victorian steel structure which is famous all over the world. The adjacent Forth Road Bridge is a classic suspension bridge dating from the 1960's, and one of the last to use a steel truss type girder before the introduction of the steel box girder (first used at the Severn Bridge).  

Queensferry Crossing is a three-tower, four-span cable-stayed bridge with a unique arrangement of stay cables which cross at midspan to deal with the problem of alternate span live load patterns - and allow the deck and towers to remain very slender.  This is a truly elegant structure and having worked on the concept design in the early stages I am really looking forward to seeing it finished at last. 

2. Tottenham Hotspur FC Stadium, London

As ever, this new stadium is characterised by a large span cantilevering roof structure, and as a structural engineer I always get excited by those!  But this stadium also incorporates what I believe to be the world's first retractable pitch on this scale.  This is so the stadium can be used for concerts and other events, making it a very valuable and flexible multi-use facility.  Although the stadium won't be fully finished and in service until next year (the roof will be finished this year) this is certainly one to look out for.

3. The Louvre, Abu Dhabi

This extraordinary museum building by architect, Jean Nouvel, is one of the world's most anticipated new structures. It features a huge 180m diameter canopy dome, which looks very intriguing with a series of seemingly random but geometrically arranged openings. This is a great example of structural art and architecture combined, and I am looking forward to learning more about this project and hopefully one day to seeing the completed building. 

Taplow Footbridge(Above: Taplow Footbridge, image credit Knight Architects/COWI)

4. Taplow Footbridge

At the other end of the scale, this beautiful little footbridge is due to be constructed over the River Thames at Taplow this year (the design is a collaboration between Knight Architects and my firm, COWI). It is a simple structure, only 40m long, with inclined steel arches, and is an elegant response to the need for pedestrian access over the river to a new housing development.  It would have been easy to merely provide a dull and basic functional bridge without much care and attention to appearance, but thankfully the planners saw the light, resulting in a much more elegant and attractive solution. 

There are countless similar opportunities for elegant expression of structural art around the world, but sadly they are not always taken up and we end up with mediocrity or worse. This little and somewhat under-stated project is a great example of what can be done economically with a little structural engineering imagination.

Follow Ian on Twitter @i_firth, and watch a livestream of his Presidential Address on 12 January on istructe.org. 


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