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Letters to the editor

Course to creativity

Having read the article on Millennium quality bridges (NCE 20/27 August) and visited the web site mentioned, I am astonished that the idea of a CD on bridge aesthetics has gained such significant support from sponsors such as the Royal Fine Art Commission, ICE and IStructE. As a teaching aid, the stated objective is to increase awareness in the education of young engineers 'to develop creative design skills in the way that architectural students are'. If only it were that easy!

The idea that a bit of architectural skill can be grafted on to the current educational programmes for young engineers is, in my opinion, a wishful fallacy. As one who has been in both camps as a student of civil engineering and subsequently a student of architecture there is a world of difference in the way design skills are developed. To help young engineers to embrace design creativity in their education requires a total integration of architecture in their work, from which the type of tool proposed by David Morris may have a place.

From my own experience I have found that the way architectural study develops creativity is founded on the idea of absorbing the influence of the leaders in the profession through their historic contribution to design and the freedom to practise individual ideas in the design studio through set projects under expert designer supervision. The almost total lack of historical study of the work of leading engineers and freedom to develop creative ideas in studio work under the influence of expert designers (almost essentially not the permanent staff involved in their technical education) is the main reason why young engineers lack design creativity.

Until such times as the professional bodies can hammer out a collective programme of design education then we will never overcome the problem of an integrated design approach between engineers and architects. It seems to me to be significant that the RIBA is not a co-sponsor of David Morris and his work, which suggests that the engineer/architect gap will be no nearer to being bridged but maybe even widened?

Professor Tom Ridley (F), Marlyn, West Linton, Scottish Borders EH46 7HW.

Agency opportunity

Your report 'Consultants lose DBFO checking' (NCE 6/13 August) claims that consultants are likely to lose out on Highways Agency commissions following a major reorganisation of DBFO road projects.

There is no planned reorganisation. We are using the lessons from the first eight DBFO projects to clarify the roles and responsibilities between the Highways Agency and consultants that work for us. This clarification would not have any significant change in the workload of consultants.

Following publication of the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review, the Integrated Transport White Paper and the Trunk Roads Programme Review, the opportunities for consultants to work with us are excellent. We have a three year spending programme rising from pounds1.4bn next year to pounds1.6bn in 2001-02. Within these figures, pounds300M more will be spent on maintenance. The proposed study programme will provide further opportunities.

David York, director, Highways Agency, Broadway, Broad Street, Birmingham

B15 1BL.

Back to school

'Structural schooling' (NCE 16 July) was an interesting article and I have become locally involved with something similar.

From parents evenings at my nine year old daughter's school, the teaching staff know that I am a civil engineer.

When this summer term commenced I was asked by my daughter's teacher if I would give a lecture on the development of the bridge, the different types of bridge and their construction. It transpired that bridge engineering formed part of a topic from the National Curriculum module on science and design technology.

Prior to the lecture I constructed several simple models. The class particularly enjoyed a large polystyrene beam which I loaded to failure, which when it did so went with a spectacular crack. This served to demonstrate the different forces built up within a beam.

My reason for writing is to encourage other engineers to become involved with their children's schools. I had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, the children were keen and exceptionally responsive. I have now interested 30, nine year olds in becoming civil engineers. A steady stream of correspondence is still coming in to my practice, even during the summer holidays!

I would like to thank the Institution's education department for all the literature and assistance they have given.

Neal Symmons (G), Larkhill, Villiers Street, Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire OL6 6TF.

Ramp role

Your article on the Harwich ramp failure (NCE 3 September) expresses valuable points regarding the need for a British Standard maritime code for ship to shore structures. However, I would like to put the record straight on Mouchel's involvement on the HSS berth at Harwich, before and after the incident of Sunday 23 August.

Mouchel was project manager for the planning, design and construction of the HSS berth and terminal development; our client was Harwich International Port. We did not project manage the installation of the HSS linkspan. It was managed by Stena Line BV and the work was supervised by the system's Swedish designers.

However, on 24 August, Mouchel was swiftly appointed by Stena Line - which operates the HSS and owns the linkspan - to investigate the incident; advise on the extent of damage and detailed inspections needed; and advise any necessary changes to the future operation and maintenance.

NCE went to press before we presented our findings to Stena. We have since reported that the linkspan may be returned to normal operation, although further detailed underwater inspections are required to confirm whether any repair work is necessary.

Mouchel was appointed by Stena for this urgent task because of our previous experience with HSS linkspans. We project managed, planned, designed and supervised construction of the three other HSS berths used by Stena in the UK including installation of the linkspans.

The maintenance and operation of the linkspan at Harwich is contracted by Stena to Harwich International Port.

Keith Davies (M), divisional director, Mouchel, West Hall, Parvis Road, West Byfleet, Surrey KT14 6EZ.

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