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Challenging construction

Showcasing structures that overcame challenging site conditions, extreme environmental factors and short construction sequences.

We hope you enjoying reading about all the inspiring projects on this page. If you click or tap on an image, you can read about a project in more detail.
As part of our online celebration, we asked the public to vote for their favourite projects. We are delighted to announce that the winner of the public vote in this theme was Skiing Platform.


2020 Winning project : Skiing Platform

Location : Soldeu, Andorra
Submitted by : Helium Engineering

A platform connecting the ski resort slopes with the village on the other side of the river. The infrastructure (spanning up to 80m) hosted the finishing area of the alpine skiing world cup finals in 2019 including demountable grandstands. Design and construction were completed in 18 months. This was made possible by using a structural scheme that allowed quick fabrication and site assembling.

Visit winner's website
A flat fronted building that uses a mixture of glass and geometric tiling.

Arter Contemporary Art Gallery

Location : Istanbul, Turkey
Submitted by : Thornton Tomasetti

A home for a foundation’s ever-growing modern art collection. It also houses a theatre, library, learning centre and café. The structural design was challenging due to the gallery’s location in a high seismic zone. Highlights include trusses spanning up to 40m and walking columns that give clear gallery spans of up to 14m.

A large commercial aircraft sits in front of a hanger. The hanger door is open.

Boeing Goldcare Gatwick - Aircraft Hangar

Location : Gatwick, UK
Submitted by : Mott MacDonald

A project to create a maintenance hangar covering 15,000m2 The ‘notch back’ form with a typical span of 75m was adopted to minimise interruption and maximise flexibility. Instead of using traditional cover-plate splices, end-plate connections were used in most joints. This included truss and column splices to enable the contractor to erect the main steelwork within 10 weeks.

<h4><b>Bridgewater Place Wind Amelioration Scheme</b></h4>

Bridgewater Place Wind Amelioration Scheme

Location : Leeds, UK
Submitted by : Buro Happold

An innovative use of structural engineering to solve a difficult safety problem. To combat the significant effects of wind acceleration around a building, three baffle structures were designed to act as wind deflectors. The baffles allowed traffic restrictions on an affected road to be lifted. They are also aesthetically pleasing and in keeping with the surroundings.

The interior lobby of a building. Stalactite style features hang from the ceiling.

Christchurch Town Hall

Location : Christchurch, New Zealand
Submitted by : Holmes Consulting LP

A project to repair and strengthen a town hall following devastating earthquakes. Significant portions of the structure were upgraded, repaired and restored. Other areas underwent a complete rebuild. High-end analysis minimised the strengthening work required for the superstructure. On completion, the town hall achieved a 100% New Building Standard rating.

A large tower stands behind a field of flowers.

IAA Visual Control Tower

Location : Dublin, Ireland
Submitted by : Arup

A project to construct Ireland’s tallest occupied building. The VCT incorporates international best practice in structural design, sway control, geotechnics, wind testing and façade design. It features a tower shaft, 5-level cab and area control functions within the base building. The VCT is a vital element in safeguarding the delivery of the new parallel runway in Dublin Airport.

A crane lifts a large glass dome towards a boat.

Iona SkyDome

Location : UK
Submitted by : Eckersley O'Callaghan

An elliptical dome capable of withstanding extreme weather conditions. The dome was designed to be the focal point on a new ocean liner. It had to be robust enough to withstand conditions that a structure of its size and situation would face at sea. The dome was subjected to strict and uncompromising weight limits. This meant each part had to be carefully detailed and optimised.

A large wooden staircase running up a wall.

King's Cross Sports Hall - Q2

Location : London, UK
Submitted by : Arup

A timber structure and ultra-lightweight concrete substructure pushing the boundaries of construction. There are three shallow parallel Victorian tunnels directly beneath the site of this new community leisure centre. All the trains using King’s Cross station pass through them. This means the building must be as light as possible and redistribute its mass uniformly.


A mixed wood and metal building. There is a view of the sea in the background.

North Coast Studio

Location : Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago
Submitted by : GL&SS

An artist studio built on a remote site near the top of a mountain. Its exposed structural frame projects into the treetops offering spectacular views of the sea. Access via a single track created logistical challenges for the construction of the in-situ concrete foundations and the prefabricated steel frame structure.

The inside of an airport terminal.

North Terminal Mezzanine

Location : Gatwick, UK
Submitted by : Webb Yates Engineers

A new mezzanine structure of approximately 700sq.m constructed in a live airport departure lounge. The mezzanine is supported entirely by the existing structure with no new columns or foundations. It was coordinated carefully with both architectural and MEP design to maximise the space available. Construction went ahead without interrupting airport operations.

A glass fronted skyscraper viewed from the ground up.

One Manhattan West

Location : New York, USA
Submitted by : Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

A 70-story (304-m) office tower and part of the larger Manhattan West Development in New York City. The tower is located on a challenging site, rising above the underground train tracks approaching Pennsylvania Station. The design team turned this constraint into an opportunity by sloping in the perimeter columns to the core and creating a column-free lobby at the base of the supertall tower.

A suspended staircase curves upwards in a large atrium.

Princelet Street

Location : London, UK
Submitted by : Heyne Tillett Steel

A carefully crafted workplace that unifies two previously separate buildings into one modern office space. The project features a light, thin cantilevered staircase and a column-free top floor. North-light roofing is incorporated within structural trusses. The existing structure has been retained and reused. This captured large amounts of CO2 while keeping the character of the original building.

A modern highrise building.

Principal Tower

Location : London, UK
Submitted by : WSP

A difficult project undertaken on a heavily constrained site. Construction had to accommodate future planned railway expansion in the foundations. Innovative solutions were implemented to improve efficiency and add value to the development. The project utilised various methods of load transferring. Large diameter piles were constructed as close as 50mm to an existing Victorian age railway tunnel.

A glass roofed atrium links two buildings. A white spiral staircase runs up the middle.

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists – Union Street

Location : London, UK
Submitted by : Integral Engineering Design

A refurbishment project to link two existing structures allowing them to function as a single entity. A highlight is the staircase that has become a sculptural feature of the new glazed atrium space. The project used a combination of light touch engineering to the existing buildings and a bold insertion to tie them together. It created a characterful new space in a sustainable way.

A large white building. There is a large canopy roof.

Shangyin Opera House

Location : Shanghai, China
Submitted by : Tongji Architectural Design (Group) Co., Ltd

A vibration isolation system was applied to eliminate the impact from a metro train passing close by. Viscous dampers were employed to coordinate the metro vibration control and the seismic design of the structure. Through close cooperation, the opera house was creatively designed, successfully constructed and harmoniously integrated.


A view down a ski slope.

Skiing Platform

Location : Soldeu, Andorra
Submitted by : Helium Engineering

A platform connecting the ski resort slopes with the village on the other side of the river. The infrastructure (spanning up to 80m) hosted the finishing area of the alpine skiing world cup finals in 2019 including demountable grandstands. Design and construction were completed in 18 months. This was made possible by using a structural scheme that allowed quick fabrication and site assembling.

A large roof covers archaeologists while they dig.

St James' Garden

Location : London, UK
Submitted by : RDG Engineering

A temporary building designed to provide a weatherproof cover. It protects archaeologists carrying out the largest exhumation works ever undertaken in the UK. The roof is a multi-span duo-pitch with a footprint of 130m x 75m. For it to work, the roof structure required movement joints at the connection to the eaves beams. This was to control foundation loads and optimise structural performance.

A bridge crossing a pavement and a river.

The Tide

Location : London, UK
Submitted by : AKT II

An exposed steel walkway made of a sequence of elevated segments stretching towards the River Thames. A short construction programme presented some challenges for the team. Conceived as a prefabricated component-based system, the walkway was transported by barge. It was assembled on a highly constrained site above an operational London Underground station. Minimal temporary works were used.

A house standing on a wooden platform. Its foundations have been dug out.

Transformation of Acland House

Location : Oxford, UK
Submitted by : Eckersley O'Callaghan

A vast basement excavated under a Grade II listed building to facilitate a new development. The 14,000m3 basement was needed due to building height restrictions. The construction required underpinning of the structure with steel stools and a transfer of load from the old to new foundation. This was carried out with minimal movement and below predicted crack widths in the brickwork.

<h4><b>Wimbledon Court No.1 Redevelopment</b></h4>

Wimbledon Court No.1 Redevelopment

Location : London, UK
Submitted by : Thornton Tomasetti

An addition of a retractable roof to an iconic stadium. The roof is supported on a flexible long span structure and posed a unique set of challenges for the design team. Creative engineering and a collaborative approach were used to meet these challenges. The construction sequence allowed the tournament to continue uninterrupted through the three-year build process.

Image credits

Quintin Lake, Arter Contemporary Art Gallery; Pierre-Louis Morcos and @Rednose_ramper, Boeing Goldcare Gatwick - Aircraft Hangar; Paul Tierney, IAA Visual Control Tower; Fadi Asmar, One Manhattan West, Jeff Moore, The Tide; AELTC and Joe Toth, Wimbledon Court No.1 Redevelopment.