Published: 05 January 2017

Structural Engineers on screen

Star Wars, Videos

Galen Erso, from Rogue One. (Image © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved)

Structural engineering is centre stage in the latest Star Wars movie, Rogue One. (Spoiler alert!)

Search TV and films for mentions of structural engineering, and you tend to come up with rather slim pickings. 

There are a few honourable exceptions: Stanley Tucci’s character in movie Margin Call muses on the bridge he built over the Ohio River, and the time it has saved for local people; the character of Michael Scofield in TV series Prison Break is a structural engineer who uses his unique skills to plot a daring prison escape. Generally though, examples are few and far between. 

Happily 2016’s big Christmas film, Rogue One, bucks this unfortunate trend.

This may be the first action blockbuster ever to have “structural engineering” mentioned by a character, let alone play a central role in the plot - the rebels’ mission is to steal the structural engineering plans to the Death Star, which hide a crucial weakness. That, in turn, must make Mads Mikkelsen’s character, Galen Erso, the first ever structural engineer hero in movie science fiction.

The Death Star
(Image © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved)

How many young people might have Googled “structural engineering” after watching the film? Who knows, a blockbuster like Rogue One might spark the interest of a whole new generation of young engineers. Well done the writers for creating a structural engineer hero – and here’s hoping we see many more in the future.

Are we missing any other structural engineers in TV and film? Let us know below.


 

Comments
Craig Orrell
Whilst our profession goes largely noticed in the world of TV and film the structures can be front and centre. The Bridge Over the River Kwai should get an honourable mention. Designed by Kieth Best who sadly passed away in 2008. The design was very evidently based on the Fourth Rail Bridge.

Link to the article here;

http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/2320266.bridge_over_river_kwai_engineer_dies/
13/02/2017 12:59:10

Thomas Hill
Prison Break features Michael Scofield, who is a structural engineer.
09/01/2017 18:22:29

Malcolm Brady
Well, we've not been represented as much as architects on film but there are a few notable appearances:
1. Donald Sutherland was the structural engineer on a new bank that he arranged for teh security to be bypassed by his geek mate in 'A Man, A Woman & a Bank' (though he should have been a services engineer really)
2. Tim Robbins was a freaky Structural Engineer in Arlington Road and a bit of psycho
3. Anthony Hopkins was a structural/aeronautical engineer who killed his wife in 'Fracture' and tried to get away with it.
WE do have a song, though - check out Blaze & The Monster Machines (https://vimeo.com/182421863)
07/01/2017 12:35:18

James Palmer
Interesting… although from a Star Wars fanatic’s perspective a correction is required: Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) isn’t a structural engineer. We’re told in the film that he’s a scientist with an expertise on Kyber crystals (which power lightsabers as well as the Death Star’s main weapon). The “crucial weakness” he refers to in his message to Jyn is that a single shot to the main reactor will trigger a chain reaction and destroy the battle station. Episode 4 shows this shot being delivered via the exhaust port to the main reactor – which presumably Galen insisted was a requirement for the reactor. At best, this puts him within the realms of a mechanical engineer, so we never actually see a structural engineer on screen. Presumably the structural plans show the location of the exhaust port (hence the rebels’ interest) because the structural engineer was responsible under the contract for the setting out of service penetrations. If only the Empire had installed a louvre…

As for structural engineers in other TV & film, season 8 of Dexter has a character who is a structural engineer and undertakes building inspections as his primary occupation.
06/01/2017 13:15:28

Sean Playford
The builder obviously didn't get the construction issue of the drawing as the crucial error would surely have been picked up on & corrected at the checking stage!
05/01/2017 13:00:02

All of the pages on this website are the copyright © of The Institution of Structural Engineers.

The Institution of Structural Engineers, International HQ, 47-58 Bastwick Street, London, EC1V 3PS, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7235 4535 Fax: +44 (0)20 7235 4294
Registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales No. 233392 and in Scotland No. SC038263
Follow us on: Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Youtube The Structural Engineer Jobs