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Creative design

Showcasing unique structures that required a creative approach to engineering design and/or the use of modern digital design tools.

We hope you enjoy 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 DONUT.

2020 Winning project : DONUT

Location : Qingdao, China
Submitted by : XinY Structural Consultants

A project to create a circular walkway supported on three existing buildings. Structural stability was achieved by using a single vertical truss along the internal ring. This enables the walkway floor and roof to cantilever from the internal ring truss outwards without any structure along the external ring. This gives an unobstructed view for visitors.

Visit winner's website
A townhouse with a shop front on the ground floor. The shop window is made of curved glass.

138 P.C. Hooftstraat - The Looking Glass

Location : Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Submitted by : Arup

A store façade that is a celebration of textiles. Three curved glass panels mimic billowing cloth. The complex design had to work structurally and aesthetically in a context of commercial environment. Bespoke adhesive glass connections were used to create a strong yet minimal finish. Glass processes were limited to reduce energy consumption. The structure can be demounted and recycled at the end of its life.

A large extension to a house. The extension has folding doors and an overhanging roof.

A House for Theo and Oskar

Location : Surrey, UK
Submitted by : Engenuiti

A scheme that enabled an existing structure to be retained whilst improving accessibility. Inspired by the concept of a forest canopy, the design team developed a cantilevering composite glulam and ply diagrid roof. This maximised accessibility in the new bedrooms beneath and provided fixing points for future equipment. Indoor and outdoor zones are linked with minimal structure and level access.

Two cars parked outside the front of a large building. The building is glass fronted and has an overhanging wooden roof.

Advanced Product Creation Centre - Jaguar Land Rover

Location : Gaydon, UK
Submitted by : Buro Happold

A campus transformation project that brought together geographically separated design teams and departments. The main headquarter building consists of a large basement and six main blocks of superstructure. They are united under a single unifying long span roof. The centre is a world class engineering environment that is used to push the boundaries of innovation.

A large white sculpture with a car in the middle of it. There is a manor house in the background.

Aston Martin at Goodwood Festival of Speed

Location : West Sussex, UK
Submitted by : Diales Technical

A project that showcases how lightweight, rigid, freeform, curved structures can be built from affordable sheet materials. The entire construction process was driven by 3D model geometry. Material use was minimal and the clean and precise construction produced a gravity defying thin loop. The structure was designed and constructed in three months.

A modern curved extension to an existing house. There is a well kept garden in the foreground.

Balmain House

Location : Sydney, Australia
Submitted by : Partridge

An innovative use of concrete solutions during the remediation of an 1880’s sandstone heritage cottage. The project involved excavation depths of 10m. A 5m cantilever floor plate was hung from curving off-form concrete walls acting as curved deep beams, with large voids in the back-span. The project stayed sensitive to heritage while achieving sustainability objectives.

A circular walkway spirals up through a forest canopy.

Camp Adventure Forest Tower

Location : Haslev, Denmark
Submitted by : Arup

A spiralling 45m tall diagrid viewing tower created out of weathered-steel elements. The tower uses a novel hyperboloid form to help create a stiff structure. This enhances the user experience by allowing visitors to get close to the surrounding trees. The adoption of automation workflows and strong collaboration between the architect and engineer helped deliver this ambitious project.

A large circular structure suspended over some shops.


Location : Qingdao, China
Submitted by : XinY Structural Consultants

A project to create a circular walkway supported on three existing buildings. Structural stability was achieved by using a single vertical truss along the internal ring. This enables the walkway floor and roof to cantilever from the internal ring truss outwards without any structure along the external ring. This gives an unobstructed view for visitors.

<h4><b>Estée Lauder Companies Pavilion CIIE 2019</b></h4>

Estée Lauder Companies Pavilion CIIE 2019

Location : Shanghai, China
Submitted by : dongqi Architects

A freestanding and demountable 6m high pavilion is designed to give the impression of transparency. As a lightweight alternative to structural glass, it uses more than 1000 acrylic fins in a special arrangement, supported by a steel frame. The mirror coating on the columns and roof beams reflects light through the pavilion using only the structural form.

A large empty space surrounded by meeting rooms. The space has a curved wooden ceiling with hexagonal cut outs.

Future Tree

Location : Esslingen, Switzerland
Submitted by : Basler & Hofmann AG

A free-form canopy created using parametric design and new digital fabrication methods. A highlight is the digitally fabricated crown made of 380 timber elements. This project champions new digital planning and construction methods. It shows how they can be used to create unconventional shapes in construction projects. It also shows how they can minimise resource usage and construction waste.

An elevated seating area in a glass roofed atrium. The atrium joins two buildings.

Heartspace - University of Sheffield

Location : Sheffield, UK
Submitted by : Arup

A project to transform a courtyard between two previously disconnected historic university buildings. A quadruple height atrium now houses new working and social spaces. Structural ingenuity comes in the form of the atrium’s striking feature, a curved glass roof. This floods the open internal spaces with light.

An aerial view of a large building. The roof is curved with an X shape on it.

IOC Olympic House

Location : Lausanne, Switzerland
Submitted by : INGENI

A four-storey building characterised by its geometrical complexity and its integration into the landscape. Special design concepts and unconventional construction techniques enabled the geometrically challenging building shape and helped meeting high sustainability standards. The emblematic central staircase represents the five Olympic rings.

A curved bridge crossing a river.

Lille Langebro

Location : Copenhagen, Denmark
Submitted by : Buro Happold

A movable bridge built across Copenhagen harbour. The project required close cooperation between all parties due to the complex nature of the structure. To maintain a slender profile in elevation, an innovative moment connection was designed to connect the moving parts together at midspan. The four bridge sections were prefabricated off site and delivered by sea.

An uplit bridge spanning a river. There are people sitting on a white bench in the middle.

Mary Elmes Bridge

Location : Cork City, Ireland
Submitted by : Arup

A bridge designed to create a shared space for pedestrians and cyclists. The slender, single span, steel shallow arch features a central ‘spine beam’. This emerges progressively from below deck to above deck, creating distinct user pathways. Sustainability and constructability combined with engineering and architectural expertise to produce this elegant bridge.

Two identical skyscrapers stand next to each other. There is a river in the foreground.

Raffles City Chongqing

Location : Chongqing, China
Submitted by : Arup

A mega-scale mixed-use development with an overall gross floor area of 1,100,000sq.m. It includes a shopping mall and eight towers for residential, office and hotel use. In this seismic region, engineers needed to provide structurally safe, cost effective and buildable solutions. Challenges included the very slender tall towers and multi-tower sky bridges.

The inside of an airport terminal.

Renovation of Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport Terminal 1

Location : Shanghai, China
Submitted by : East China Architectural Design and Research Institute (ECADI)

A major renovation to an airport terminal. High efficiency structural systems are used for the integrated structure of the roof, curtain, and canopy of the departure hall. These are based on axial stressed members. Specialised structure schemes are applied to preserve most of the original structure and to reduce demolition. Passive energy conservation measures reduce overall consumption.

An aerial view of a large suspension bridge.

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Bridge over the River Barrow

Location : Wexford and Kilkenny, Ireland
Submitted by : Arup

A nine-span, three-tower, extradosed bridge with a single central plane of cables supporting four traffic lanes. At 887m, the bridge is considered the longest in Ireland. Its two main spans of 230m each are the longest post-tensioned extradosed concrete spans globally. This landmark was designed to complement its surroundings and environment.

The outside of a white building. The walls are angled in different directions.


Location : Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Submitted by : Inhabit

A vast triangular spaceframe housing the world’s largest indoor skydive and climbing wall facility. The form of the building is crystalline and made up of triangular facets. The design follows the form and integrates the façade and main structure holistically. It does this by leveraging off the inherent structural strength of the triangular geometry.

The inside of a modern church. It is filled with chairs and has a wooden ceiling.

Stroud Christian Community Chapel

Location : Gloucestershire, UK
Submitted by : Corbett & Tasker Ltd.

A low carbon, original and innovative development. CLT panels are used to form a complex polyhedral form. This is reminiscent of traditional vaulted cathedrals. The 3D form is derived from sacred geometry and forms an efficient and elegant structure. Advanced FEA techniques were developed to justify the unique rib-stiffened structural shell which makes up the roof and walls.

A large spherical structure. A set of stairs is lit up in front of it.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Location : Los Angeles, USA
Submitted by : Buro Happold

A major renovation project including the addition of a spherical 1000 seat theatre. In-depth analysis on the theatre indicated that an unusual base-isolation system was needed. During an earthquake, base-isolators allow movement of up to 75cm in any direction. The original 1930’s building was also retrofitted and designed to limit movement. The theatre was designed by architect Renzo Piano.

An elevated walkway in a forest.

The Viper Elevated Walkway at the Newt in Somerset

Location: Castle Cary, UK
Submitted by: Henry Fagan & Partners

An elegant and elevated woodland walkway. The design took a sensitive approach to the environment, ensuring minimal impact on the natural forest floor. To achieve this, columns are supported on tripods on steel piles and manufactured to individual bespoke dimensions. Its winding layout is designed to avoid all the trees in the forest canopy.

A canopy of umbrellas suspended between two buildings.

Umbrella Project, Heathrow Airport

Location: Heathrow, UK
Submitted by:  BakerHicks

A complex web of high tensile cables suspending 350 brightly coloured umbrellas 10m above Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 Arrivals Court. The lightweight, temporary structure covered an area of 2,800sq.m and comprised of 3.5km of cabling. Part of the ADHD Foundation’s ‘Umbrella Project’, the installation helped raise awareness of neurodiversity.

An old wooden boat sits in front of a modern building.

Windermere Jetty Museum

Location: Lake District, UK
Submitted by: Arup

An example of how clear definition of the structural strategy can enable high quality architecture and achieve simplicity in form. Located on the shores of Windermere, the environment imposed many challenges for the designers including analysis of site-specific wind and wave loading, the requirement to raise levels for a 100-year flood scenario and reforming the historic lake edge.

Image credits

Bond Bryan Architects, Heartspace – University of Sheffield; Adam Mørk, IOC Olympic House; Arup, Mary Elmes Bridge; Arup, Raffles City Chongqing; insta mavic, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Bridge. Christian Richter, Windermere Jetty Museum