Structures, water, computers, languages and people (not necessarily in this order)

Arenas vs. Hadid controversy

Recently, I read the furious opinion of the well known Spanish engineer Arenas with respect to the Pavilion Bridge designed by the Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid for Expo 2008 in Zaragoza.

The argument was expected, because they plead opposed conceptions of the built environment: Hadid possesses a prominent imagination and she pays little attention to the structural issues; the structure calculated by Arup is a mere consequence of her aesthetical dream. However, Arenas embraces the Continental tradition. As a professor of civil engineering he firmly believes that structural art exists and to hide the skeleton implies an unpardonable sin. Even the election of materials was quite different: steel for the Iraqui, concrete for the Spaniard.

From my point of view both are right: the relationship between engineers and architects is critical to the design of singular structures. Leonhardt warns engineers that the often cited quote `form follows function’ is misunderstood if function is only defined structurally. On the other hand, putting consulting engineers behind the architects creates designs for fuss and provocation ignoring efficiency and soberness. One example of a bridge that is too architectural is the Millenium Footbridge in London by Foster.

Hadid's bridge (34 million €) will pass over the River Ebro very close to the roadway bridge by Arenas (25 million €). Soon, the people from Zaragoza will enjoy the pleasing comparison of these two different styles.

Third Millenium Bridge. Arenas & Partners.

Pavilion bridge. Hadid & Arup.