Roger Ridsdill Smith, a Director at Arup, has won a prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering Silver Medal for his outstanding personal contribution to British engineering. He will receive the medal at the Academy Awards Dinner in London on Monday 7 June from Nigel Whitehead FREng, Group Managing Director of Programmes and Support at BAE Systems, title sponsors of the event.

Roger was instrumental in the design and delivery of London’s Millennium Bridge, which opened ten years ago next week. The ‘Blade of Light’, was the first new Thames crossing since Tower Bridge in 1894, linking the City and St Paul's Cathedral to the north with the Globe Theatre and Tate Modern on Bankside. A key element In London's pedestrian infrastructure, it has created new routes into Southwark and encouraged new life on the embankment.

Roger was involved in the project from its inception, through the design and running of the construction contract to completion. He was a central member of the team that resolved the bridge’s initial vibration issues, and the research he and his colleagues undertook have made Arup a world-leading authority on synchronous lateral excitation triggered by pedestrian overcrowding.

The architect Lord Foster, nominating Roger for the medal, says

“His confident ‘feel’ for the possibilities of contemporary architecture allows him to be experimental and bold when testing unkown ideas. Commercially, this is of great appeal. We are continually surprised and delighted by Roger’s answers to our challenging architectural proposals – he is a rare, gifted engineer who is able to fulfil the real technicalities imperative to actual construction complexities without losing the poetic intent.”

Roger has worked with Foster and Partners on a range of projects since he joined Arup in 1994. These have included Citibank’s London HQ and Faustino Winery in Spain – to name but a few. Current projects with other collaborators include the new Urban Sustainability Centre for Siemens in East London with Wilkinson Eyre and Pringle Brandon, and the Commonwealth Institute for developer Chelsfield with OMA beside Holland Park.

One of Roger’s most recent collaborations with Foster and Partners is a new winery for the Faustino Group, 150km north of Madrid in the Ribera del Duero, one of Spain’s foremost wine-producing regions. Reminiscent of the naturally undulating topography of the site, a road climbs to the roof of the building, enabling the harvested grapes to be poured straight down into the hopper and using gravity to aid movement of the wine within the building - maximising efficiency and minimising damage to the grapes and wine.

The three production stages - fermentation in steel vats, ageing in oak barrels and ageing in bottles - dictate three distinct volumes of the building, which are controlled by an operations hub at the core. The wings which house the barrels and bottle cellar are partly underground, providing the most favourable conditions for ageing the wine, while the fermentation wing is exposed, allowing carbon dioxide to be released. Partly buried within the landscape, the visible impact of the building is reduced and the concrete structure uses thermal mass to control the internal atmosphere. The design also incorporates photovoltaic cells on the roof to reduce environmental impact. The building structure, now nearing completion, is in prefabricated concrete, exposed for thermal mass, with every detail drawn to be visible.

Roger says “I am privileged to receive this award, and honoured to have been nominated by Lord Foster.

Engineering is a team activity. I can think of no part of my profession that is not collaborative. The challenge is to understand when a decision is appropriate and to decide on what direction would be the best response to the information at hand.

We live in a period where the design process will be altered in an increasingly energy constrained environment. It is a fascinating time to be an engineer.”

Notes for editors

  1. This year’s other Silver Medallists are Colin Treganza Dancer of Metaswitch Networks, Andrew Harter of Real VNC Ltd and Dr Nicholas Longfield of Corus.
  2. 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.
  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
Tel. 020 7766 0636; email: Jane Sutton

or Vicky Maunder at Arup, tel. 020 7755 6649; email: Vicky Maunder