Gateshead Millennium Bridge architect Jim Eyre of Wilkinson Eyre is to receive the Royal Academy of Engineering President’s Medal this week for his initiative in promoting engineering excellence. He will receive the gold medal from Academy President Sir Alec Broers on Thursday 10 June at the Academy’s Awards Dinner in London. One of the Academy’s highest accolades, the last President’s Medal was awarded in 2000.

Eyre’s architectural vision, particularly his unusual and beautiful bridges, have captured wide interest and brought a new audience to appreciate the fusion of form and function. Gateshead residents have taken his “blinking eye” Millennium Bridge to their hearts as it elegantly solves the problem of allowing ships to pass underneath. Designed with engineers Gifford and Partners, the bridge spans 105 metres over the Tyne and tips to allow 25 metre clearance for boats. In 2002 the bridge won the Stirling Prize for Architecture and the Supreme Award for Structural Engineering Design. It also featured on a series of stamps on innovative engineering structures.

Wilkinson Eyre’s Floral Street Bridge at the Royal Ballet School cleverly links two buildings at different levels, and only two weeks ago their new air bridge opened at Gatwick Airport, the largest passenger bridge in the world across a live taxiway.

“My inspiration often comes from the design constraints themselves,” says Eyre, “I look at the problems and try to resolve them in an interesting and elegant way. Sculpting, shaping, getting the lines and detailing right are part of the pleasure of design but it’s sometimes a battle to keep it intact! Good engineers understand the importance of good design – on the Gateshead Bridge for instance the finished product looked just like the competition image, it hardly changed at all!”

“I really enjoy working with engineers – the mutual mistrust that used to be a barrier is now all but gone and engineers really understand what an architect can do for a project. Computer technology has helped enormously – structural analysis is much quicker and it’s no longer a question of the engineers saying ‘give me your design and I’ll make it stand up’. Now we have genuine collaboration.”

“Jim Eyre has contributed substantially to innovation in bridge design and construction,” says Sir Alec Broers. “His work shows an exceptional and intuitive understanding of the engineering principles involved and it has raised people’s expectations and aspirations for the design potential even in essential infrastructure.”

Notes for editors

  1. The President’s Medal is awarded no more than once a year to an individual or organisation who has contributed significantly to the Academy’s aims through “initiative in promoting engineering excellence” but is not eligible for election to the Academy.
  2. James Eyre OBE BA(Hons) AA Dip RIBA
    Jim Eyre has been a Partner/Director of Wilkinson Eyre Architects since 1987 and has been responsible for managing the practice’s increasing workload of transportation, bridge and infrastructure projects in addition to certain other projects. He has over 21 years experience in architectural practice, including working with Michael Hopkins Architects for six years prior to joining Wilkinson Eyre in 1986. Directing architectural activity on a number of key major projects, he has enjoyed involvement in a diverse range of project types at all stages of the design and construction process. Projects include the multiple award winning Stratford Market Depot on the Jubilee Line Extension and the new Stratford Regional Station. He has also been responsible for generating numerous competition winning concepts in the practice’s unrivalled bridge portfolio. Publications include ‘The Architecture of Bridge Design’, Telford 1997 and ‘Bridging Art and Science (the work of Wilkinson Eyre Architects)’, Booth Clibborn Editions 2001. He was a visiting tutor at Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, USA in 1998 and is currently teaching at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He has exhibited extensively internationally, including in the Design Council touring exhibition ‘12 for 2000’ and at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition annually since 1985.
  3. Founded in 1976, the Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship - comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers - provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at the Royal Academy of Engineering

For more information about Wilkinson Eyre Architects please contact:
Shely Bryan or Carolyn Larkin of Caro Communications
T: 020 7336 8488