Professor Chris Wise, the engineer behind London’s Millennium Bridge, has won a prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering Silver Medal for his outstanding personal contribution to British engineering, to be presented at the Academy Awards Dinner in London on Tuesday 5 June.
Chris, who is a Fellow of the Academy, was nominated for the medal by the architect Lord Rogers of Riverside, who has worked with him on both national and international projects. He says “Chris is one of the most innovative structural engineers I know and have been fortunate to work with. His range, across all kinds of structures, is exceptional both spatially and technically. He also aspires to show that engineering is human and really does benefit mankind.”
Chris is one of what Lord Rogers calls a new generation of built environment engineers, and his legacy includes the pioneering Commerzbank in Frankfurt – 290 metres tall and the world’s first ‘green’ skyscraper. Also with the renowned engineering consultancy Arup, where he spent the early part of his career and became their youngest ever director, he led the design of the now infamous but elegant Millennium Bridge in London with Anthony Caro and Norman Foster.
With his team at Expedition Engineering, a new company set up in 1999, Chris’s latest projects include Italy’s tallest building, the 220 metre Sanpaolo Bank HQ with architect Renzo Piano. He and his team also designed two huge hydrogen fuel-cell powered ‘walking buildings’ to be used as research bases on Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf with Hopkins Architects.
Expedition is an experimental new practice that started life in a spare bedroom with just £25,000. Less than ten years later it turns over £4 million a year and has just received its 200th commission.
Chris is one of the few engineers who could be called a familiar face on television. He reconstructed and flew a human-powered replica of the world’s first airship for BBC’s Building the Impossible. In Secrets of Lost Empires he put a roof over the Colosseum that slid back like a Porsche’s. This year he will become Master of the Royal Designers, only the sixth engineer to achieve this since Barnes Wallis.
As Imperial College’s first Professor of Creative Design, and later Yale’s Davenport Professor, Chris has inspired many students to pursue engineering as a career. He was the driving force behind Imperial’s creation of the Constructionarium, an innovative learning tool for engineering students developed with industry at the Construction Industry Training Board five years ago and already on the curriculum at twelve other universities around the UK.
“Over the past two centuries engineering and technology have brought us fantastic benefits but also fantastic uncertainty. So it’s great to be part of a new generation of engineers who are humans rather than calculating machines and can wrestle with the really big questions every day when they go to work. I know Superman is trying to save the planet too but who, today, wants to wear their pants outside their trousers?”
Notes for editors
The Academy's Silver Medals were instigated in 1995. They are awarded annually to engineers who have made outstanding contributions to British engineering but have been working as an engineer for no more than 30 years. Up to four medals may be awarded each year.
This year’s other Silver Medals go to Professor Gehan Amaratunga of Cambridge University and Professor Nigel Brandon and Professor Christopher Toumazou, both of Imperial College, London.
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 or Tonia Page at The Royal Academy of Engineering Tel. 020 7227 0536