What makes a Supreme Award Winner?

Author: Professor John Orr

Date published

12 February 2024

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What makes a Supreme Award Winner?

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Author

Professor John Orr

Date published

12 February 2024

Author

Professor John Orr

Chair of the Structural Awards judging panel, Professor John Orr, discusses his role and what factors help the judges select a winner of the Supreme Award for Structural Engineering Excellence.

The Supreme Award for Structural Engineering Excellence is the IStructE’s most prestigious structural award. It is awarded to the project that represents the best of the best from the ten or so Award Winners chosen by the judging panel.

Our attribute based judging criteria mean that the judges are better able to celebrate all kinds of creative structural engineering – as a result the ten or so Award Winners, from which we choose the Supreme Award, represent a huge variety of wonderful structural engineering from around the world. The ten or so winners will also have been selected by the judges for excellence against one or more of the four key attributes: People, Planet, Process and Profession – meaning our shortlist of ten winners are being celebrated for very different reasons. This makes choosing a winner doubly difficult.

The Supreme Award winner must demonstrate structural engineering excellence that has gone beyond far beyond the normal. For a project to win, it does not have to be a “megaproject”, be entered by a large engineering firm, or have been featured in the press – it simply has to demonstrate superb excellence, innovation, and creativity that truly wows the judges. This, of course, is no small task given that the competition is always so strong.

The extensive experience exhibited on the judging panel means we always have robust and lively debates – even more so when it comes to the Supreme Award. My role is to ensure that often differing viewpoints are heard and discussed before we arrive at a collective decision behind which every judge stands.
 
The awards rightly highlight carbon impact as an important criterion (under the “Planet” attribute, and with the mandatory submission of a structural carbon quantification). This forms part of our discussion, but the panel looks far beyond this in choosing the Supreme Award winner – we are looking for holistic design excellence that says something truly noteworthy about our profession.
 
The first winner of the Supreme Award was the first Severn Bridge, which led to a new way of designing long bridges. More recent winners have equally pushed the boundaries of design and engineering in a huge variety of ways, as evidenced in the list below:
 
2023: Nancy Pauw Bridge, Canada (StructureCraft)
2022: The Arc, Green School, Bali (Atelier One)
2022: HYLO, UK (AKT II)
2021: Christchurch Town Hall, New Zealand (Holmes Consulting LLP)
2021: Lille Langbro, Denmark (Buro Happold)
2019: New Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, UK (Buro Happold Engineering / Schlaich Bergermann Partner)
2018: Tamina Canyon Crossing, Switzerland (Leonhardt, Andrä und Partner)
2017: British Airways i360, UK (Jacobs)
2016: Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre, Canada (Fast + Epp)
2016: Mount Stewart House, UK (Mann Williams)
2015: Singapore Sports Hub, Singapore (Arup)
2014: Glass Lantern, Apple Zorlu, Turkey (Eckersley O’Callaghan)

Enter the 2024 Structural Awards

 

 

Prof John Orr

Chair of the Structural Awards judging panel (UK)

John is a Professor of Structural Engineering, in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. His research and teaching address climate emergency through interdisciplinary design. John has secured more than £11million in research funding – he was the first person in the UK to receive an EPSRC Early Career Fellowship in Structural Engineering, won an EPSRC Bright Ideas award, and led the EPSRC Energy Feasibility Study “MEICON” which examined the culture of design in structural engineering as it relates to embodied and whole life carbon.

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