How stable is that structure? How long will it last? These are questions a structural engineer may ask themselves during a typical working day, but the job is about more than load-bearing walls and sturdy foundations. Each year since 1968, The Structural Awards has celebrated works that not only represent sound, globally significant infrastructure, but do so in the most striking and creative of ways. And with the UK's longest treetop walkway, a dinosaur-inspired dinosaur museum and elevated adventure park among the projects shortlisted this year, the 2016 event is poised to highlight a diverse and innovative mix of stunning structures from all over the world.
Held by the Institution of Structural Engineers in London each year, the Structural Awards showcase the industry's brightest talent across a number of categories. Sustainability, bridges, educational facilities and entertainment structures are a few areas with awards up for grabs, with the world's tallest ferris wheel, restored concert halls and China's Taizhou Bridge a few to take out honors in years gone by. The Institution has now announced the 2016 shortlist of 47 entrants, hailing from 14 different countries.
"This year's shortlist well illustrates the engineer's crucial role, with all kinds of structure represented – from treetop walkways and mega-tall skyscrapers to floating stairways and football stadia," says Institution Chief Executive, Martin Powell. "Our congratulations to all those who entered, providing us with another wonderful Structural Awards shortlist."
Here's a look at a few of the designs to catch our eye, and the gongs they'll be shooting for.
Expo2015 Hive (Award for Arts or Entertainment Structures)
Comprising 60,000 unique aluminum parts stacked into 31 layers, this incredibly complicated structure was inspired by scientific research into the health of honeybees and the role they play as pollinators. Created to serve as the centerpiece of the UK Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo, The Hive now rests in London's Kew Gardens. Here, LED lights are fitted to the aluminum pieces and glow and fade in-synch with a buzzing soundtrack, both of which are a response to the live activity of real bees, zipping around a real hive on site.
5 Martin Place (Award for Commercial or Retail Structures)
Restoring heritage-listed buildings is inherently tricky business, but by leaning on the original structure for temporary support, designer Aurecon has given the site of a 1916 bank quite the facelift. Known as the Money Box, the site now boasts a 10-story office towering 22 meters (72 ft) over the original building, courtesy of V-shaped bracing and an efficient structural steel frame. That the new building features rainwater harvesting and high-performance glazing didn't do it any harm in the judges' eyes, either.
The Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavillion 2015 (Award for Arts or Entertainment Structures)
Duking it out with The Hive in the Arts and Entertainment category, the Serpentine Gallery by Spanish architects SelgasCano is an art venue in London housed inside double-skinned polygonal structures made from translucent fabric. This rests over a steel frame to create a well-lit and multi-colored environment for art enthusiasts to enjoy the contemporary and modern works on display.
Torre BBVA Bancomer (Award for Commercial or Retail Structures)
Earthquakes of the slow, drawn out variety, known as low-frequency earthquakes, are no small consideration when it comes to construction in Mexico. To deal with these events, which can last for months, the Torre BBVA Bancomer, one of Mexico's tallest skyscrapers, is wrapped in a protective skeleton. Called the Eccentrically Braced Megaframe, this structural frame bears the brunt of the building's lateral wind and seismic loads through specialized ductile connections.
STIHL Treetop Walkway (Award for Pedestrian Bridges)
At 280 m (920 ft) long, the STIHL Treetop Walkway is the longest such walkway in the UK. Designed to help visitors to the Westonbirt Arboretum learn more about the surrounding trees, the wooden and steel bridge sits atop 57 crossing, tapering legs crafted from solid larch and Douglas fir timber.
Skymate (Award for Small Projects)
There are more than one hundred different aerial activities one can partake in at Skymate in Adelaide, Australia, but erecting this adventure park at altitude was perhaps the most daring of all. The judges describe the construction process as a literal "high-wire act", with only six of the 16 supporting columns actually touching the ground. The park is made up of 54 "sky pod" activity stations over four levels, measuring 26 meters (85 ft) high in total.
Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum (Award for Sustainability)
The bed of dinosaur bones beneath this museum in Northern Alberta, Canada isn't the only homage to the prehistoric Earth wanderers. The exhibits at the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum are sheltered by a geometrically complex roof, suspended on timber beams arranged specifically as a tip of the hat to dinosaur bones.
The Structural Awards Ceremony will take place on November 11. You can flick through our gallery to see these shortlisted projects from fresh angles.
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