My attitude towards engineering, my feeling towards engineering has developed from a set of influences, and probably the greatest influences I have are a man I worked with when I worked at Buro Happold, a man called Ian Liddell who was an engineer who had an understanding, a feeling for structures. Prior to that I'd seen engineering as an analytical process. He, over a period of five years working with him, had managed to show me that engineering is about feeling and intuition for structures. Now, whenever I think of structure, any engineering structure, I have to almost be the structure. And if I can't do that, and if I can't understand and feel the structure, then I don't attempt to do it. I go away and either re-think it or go away and come back to it later, until the point at which I can understand it. I did some lecturing at the Gulbenkian Institute at the Met. There I met a sculptor called Jamie McCullough. He was an Eton boy and he had been invited by a tutor at Eton to build a bridge as a sculptor basically, and he's had a fascination with Newton's bridge at Cambridge and he asked if we could engineer it with him. We talked about the idea of Newton's bridge and the idea of translating that into a 3D form. And I had had a lot of experience, through light-weight structures and tension structures, of 3D surfaces.
Jamie McCullough, who had no experience of these things at all, was able to, in fact, analyse the structure himself. He came in and learned the mathematics for it, did the computer analysis himself and built it himself. So we went back from the idea of a 3D surface and looked into the way of generating those using straight sections. And this bridge was a section of a toy which allows him to use, what we did ultimately, was use five and a half centimetre timbers, Iroko timbers which, because of the nature of the form, again, you develop geometric stiffness. So it allows you to use very, very small amounts of material and span great distances.
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