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PROFESSOR SIR ALFRED PUGSLEY , in his Presidential Address to the Institution, chose research as his theme. The present paper may serve to comment on some aspects of research that could not be included in the compass of Sir Alfred’s Address. Indeed, the contributions made to structural engineering by research workers over- the past fifty years are so many and so varied that many important developments are necessarily omitted from this brief article.
FIFTY YEARS is a brief interval of time in architectural history, yet in this period the extravagant taste which produced ornate Victorian building has suffered complete re-action, and architects almost everywhere now design primarily for functional requirements and try to produce structures of simple elegance, some examples of which are shown in figures 1-7. There are still a few critics who scornfully refer to most new buildings as “ towers of concrete and glass,” and sometimes with justification, for it requires the highest skill to produce refinement, elegance and simplicity on a large scale. But in spite of the failures, the revolution on the whole has succeeded and the credit must go to men like Gropius, Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, and Nervi, who have been perceptive, skilled, and courageous enough to defy tradition, and to use new materials, particularly reinforced concrete, in a rational and enterprising manner. The architects of many of the post-war British school buildings have also, more recently, made a notable contribution. In the wider field of engineering structures, designers have determined mathematically the shape which provides strength most economically and function most efficiently, and the uniformity and ease of casting concrete in almost any required shape has thereby endowed with beauty even the most utilitarian structures, which hitherto had been accepted as incurably ugly. Even architects have, at times, credited engineers with producing attractive “ functional ”
structures because of their clean, honest lines.” More often, they have probably had in mind prestressed concrete bridges rather than coal bunkers or, perhaps, photographs of concrete structures rather than the structures themselves. For the photographs showing attractive silhouettes and patterns in black and white have often been deceptive, the structure itself being of elegant form, but drab and shabby on the surface. This, however, is a quite inexcusable constructional fault, as the weathering samples at the Cement and Concrete Association laboratory clearly demonstrate, or more emphatically still, those exposed in the smoky atmosphere of London, on the roof of the City and Guilds College.
Professor A.L.L. Baker