I refer to the two items which were reported in NCE 28 January (viz Robert Benaim's lecture to the LGSS and Andy McMillan's lecture to the ICE West of Scotland). Both purport to offer advice to civil engineers in widening their education to become better at 'design', but appear to have carefully avoided going into any detail as to how this can be achieved. In my view, this type of waffle is not helping the underlying debate of the need for increased design skills in the education of civil engineers.
To promote the idea that the aim is to 'obviate the need for architects on certain structural projects' (as Benaim is reported as advising) is surely only an emotive response to one bad experience he has suffered at the hands of an architect on one of his projects. It entirely ignores the fact that architects are the ones who produce 'architecture' (ie the design and construction of buildings) for which the collaboration with civil engineers and others is a happy prospect on most projects.
The opportunity for a civil engineer to design a structure other than a building is one to embrace with the collaboration of all the skills needed without cause for professional jealousy to enter to the situation. Such team working has been the essence of my career and I find the idea of obviating it to be wholly retrograde.
In the lecture by Andy McMillan, the ancient idea that 'lack of historical knowledge about the design of structures could only be to the detriment of their profession' is almost an insult to the way we have all been educated.
Of course, there is a need for the history of civil engineering design to be taught but my complaint is the misuse of the concept that 'structures' are the whole spectrum of civil engineering. I also find that his reference to the fact that architects receive a thorough foundation in the history of structures to be too fanciful even for him, as I have discovered during many years of tutoring in architectural schools.
Again I emphasise that architects and engineers need each other, and hence a common understanding of each others' skills is a top priority for successful design collaboration whatever the project on which they may be engaged.
Tom Ridley (F), Marlyn, West Linton, Scottish Borders EH46 7HW