Getting ready for the off – Number One


This weekend is my last in London. I am away next weekend for the bank holiday, and the weekend after that it’s the big off. It has all come round much faster than I expected. Obviously, the biggest thing I need to sort out is packing. Sitting here in my bedroom – no, stuffroom would be a better name for it as there is only one bed in here but lots of stuff – I keep merrily imagining that it all might pack itself, Mary Poppins in the nursery style. It’s not, is it? Right. Well then, what to take?

Earlier this year I had had the opportunity to take some stufff out to Paris four months ahead of my move. Given that I was still going to be living and studying in London for four more months I tried to pack things that I definitely needed for my year abroad but didn’t need in the short run. What went was a motley assortment of blankets, posters, thick jumpers and books that are halfway down my reading list for the year. When I went over in the summer I came very close to taking my skis with me, for one it would mean less stuff to take out in September. It would also have appealed to my sense of humour to be travelling with a pair of skis during the July heat wave.

A very major concern is what to do with all my notes. The thought of going through them all in the middle of the summer holidays does not make me somersault with joy. In fact, the later I leave it, the closer I am to reaching the conclusion that all I need is my computer, a sharp pencil and clean underwear.

The other part of leaving is saying the goodbyes. Unlike my friend Chloe who is going to be in the Middle East for a year, I am only going to be across the water. There are places on the Metropolitain Line that are further from central London than Paris. And given the number of times that I have been to and fro this year already it really doesn’t feel that far. I don’t raelly need to say goodbye do I? But I know it doesn’t work like that. So yesterday the two of us had a leaving party. It was a really good afternoon and evening in a pub, but the ironic thing is that I am planning to see everyone that I saw yesterday again before I leave, thus adding to, not diminishing, the irreality of the fact that very soon I am leaving. Also, if I am going to see everyone again, how am I going to find the time to pack?

I say again, all need is a computer, clean underwear and a sharp pencil…

Wilkinson Ire – Successful Expedition

It is with great pride that I report that Expedition Engineering won Thursday’s cricket match against Wilkinson Eire architects.  In a game between two teams each with a fair spread of novices and more skilled players, the tension was maintained right until the last ball of the final over.  Expedition won by two runs.

I have to confess that despite my great improvement at the nets, my bowling was a little dismal.  When I batted I was in with Chris Wise, and we finished the batting with the pair of us not out.  Although I didn’t quite score any runs by hitting the ball, there was a no ball called when I was at the wicket – maybe my ugly mug put the bowler off and made him send the ball wide, giving us the two points that we wouldn’t have won without, I am sure!

Though my placement with Expedition is short (too short with ever clearer hindsight – funny how with age your eye sight diminishes but your hindsight becomes sharper), there is a chance that there will be another match before I leave for France.  Next time i hope to actually score a run.  That would be a real improvement!

It is great to be playing sport.  I forfitted that day’s gym session because I knew I would be getting some excercise at the game.  Though quite what the net benefit was, considering the beers and chips on the company tab afterwards, I am not so certain.

Pont Simone de Beauvoir

My thanks go to Mary for finding this article in the Sunday Independent on Paris’ newest bridge, Le Pont Simone de Beauvoir:

I am fond of this bridge – not a word I would ever use for a person but entirely appropriate for a graceful structure such as this.  Last February I lead a group of 80 students on a three day tour of Paris’ engineering sites.  This is no news to most readers of this blog as I suspect that most of you were on the trip.  For the benefit of those that weren’t, the weekend was packed with an ambitious itinerary of Paris’ engineering and architectural attractions.  For me, the highlight was this bridge.

 Reading this article, I am sad, although not unsurprised, to see that the structural engineers on this project – Paris based RFR ( – are not once mentioned.  I struggle to think of a construction project where architects have been involved and not engineers.  Even the models at the end of year show at the Architect’s Association (  this year had to be checked over by a structural engineer to make sure they were safe. 

When it comes to bridge design, I believe there is an important part to be played by architects but that the design should be lead by the engineering.  When it comes to buildings, the engineering – the stuff what makes it stand up and not fall over when the wind blows – can be hidden away, like in the Ritz (London’s first steel-framed building) or on display for all to see like at the Pompidou centre.  With bridges however, there is no hiding the engineering.  The structural design is the language of the bridge from which all other things follow.  It’s very hard to hide it.

I am sure that your comments will help me clarify my stance on this matter so I shall leave it there for the moment.  There is more to say however on this bridge.  Firstly, its structure should really referred to as a lenticular truss.  Thinking of it as an arch bridge supported by a suspension bridge is helpful.  Anyone who had just read that article might think that the bridge’s width was purely architectural.  It should be noted however that such a long-spanned bridge is susceptable to fluttering in the wind.  The bridge’s width helps to stabilise it from these wind induced oscillations. 

 Secondly, the bridge was not technically built in Paris, but rather on the banks of the Rhine in Germany.  The enormous central span of the bridge was constructed at a German steel fabricator, and then loaded onto two enormous barges, floated up the Rhine, along the North Sea Coast down to Le Havre, under the Pont du Normandie (my favourite bridge and up the Seine to Paris where low tide had to be waited for to get the enormous section under Paris’ low arch bridges.  The whole journey can be seen on the website of the guy who lead the strucutal desgin on the project, Henry Bardsley (

Though it has been open for a few months now, I have yet to make a crossing.  I am sure that when I do, readers of this blog will be the first to know.

Engineers vs Architects – it’s just not cricket

I am forever bored of engineer vs architect debates.  They are just not cricket.  That is unless they are about cricket.  Tomorrow I will make my cricketing debut with Expedition Engineering (, the company with which I am in the middle of a four week placement.  We will be playing against a team from Wilkinson Eyre architects (who were the architects on the Gateshead Millenium Bridge 

This will be Expedition’s third match of the season.  Last night the team went down to the cricket nets at Paddington Rec.  The great thing about cricket nets are that they funnel the ball towards the wicket.  Given my bowling looks more akin to a throw one might use when lobbing a grenade (a technique I picked up during my extensive army training) – that is, up and over and not long and straight – I was grateful to the nets for guiding my ball towards the wicket.  As the session wore on however, I found I no-longer needed the nets, and the ball found its way close to the wicket of its own accord.  I say close becuase I never actually hit the wicket.  The batsman always gets in the way.

 Then it was time to bat.  A cricket ball is undeniably hard.  A ball deflected from my bat hit the roof frame and landed hard on my head – the noise was not unlike a walnut being cracked open.   I use a defensive stroke.  That is, if the ball is coming anywhere near me I intend to wallop it to minimise the chances of it hitting me.  If I can however, I just prefer to jump out of the way.  The problem is that this in turn leaves my wickets wide open.  I intend therefore to use a combination of the two techinques tomorrow.  I will jump out of the way while vaguely leave the bat infront of the wicket in the hope that it might protect my bales, so to speak.

 I have to say that my technique is not in line with the rest of the team.  It is a fifteen over match and we are gunning for a score of 100.  (Since I currently have no readers on this blog, I am confident that I am not giving away our tactics to the Architects!)  Work will be on the back-burner today.  Strategies needed to be plotted, and maybe even plotted out using AutoCad.

Stay tuned to find the latest.  Unfortunately, this blog won’t allow me to provide readers with a constantly updating score board for your computers.  Sorry about that.

Why blog?

This first entry is not a treatise on why one should blog.  I am not even certain why I should blog.  But I am certain that I like other people’s blogs, so much so that I want to have a go myself.

So what might the casual reader expect to find in this blog?  Well, wary of promising too much and not delivering – a common syptom of initial overenthusiasm – lets just keep it simple…

I want to achieve two things with this blog.

  • Those who know me know that I am on the unhealthy side of enthusiastic about civil engineering – buildings, bridges, towers, tunnels, cities – the lot.  I want to use this blog to share that enthusiasm with anyone  who is interested.
  • I am about to spend a year studying in France.  I hope this blog will help people I know stay in touch with me and with what I am doing.  I also hope that it will encourage those who are intereested in studying abroad to apply.

So there you have it.  My first entry.  Predicatable I am sure.  I hope that the rest is less predicatable and more enjoyable.

Ciao for now