An Engineer Imagines
The long-awaited reissue of the autobiography of Peter Rice, one of the main structural engineers behind the Sydney Opera House, the Pompidou Centre, the Menil Collection and Lloyd’s of London.
‘I am an engineer. Often people will call me an ‘architect engineer’ as a compliment. It is meant to signify a quality of engineer who is more imaginative and design-orientated than a normal engineer… To call an engineer an ‘architect engineer’ because he comes up with unusual or original solutions is essentially to misunderstand the role of the engineer in society.’
An Engineer Imagines is a rare look into the professional creativity and philosophy of Peter Rice, who was widely acclaimed as the greatest structural engineer of his generation. He was a man who, in Renzo Piano’s words, could design structures ‘like a pianist who can play with his eyes shut’. Working with many of the world’s greatest architects on buildings that became icons of contemporary architecture, he brought a uniquely poetic feeling to his work.
Joining Ove Arup & Partners in 1956, Rice had heard that ‘it was a place where an oddball could fit in.’ Taking on Arup’s theory of Total Design to heart, Rice writes about the role of the engineer in society, and how he himself applied his creativity to various projects. He admits he became an engineer by accident, tentatively feeling his way through a career without a natural instinct. But as he takes you through each of his projects, one-by-one, you can trace his development from graduate to veteran.
Written in clear and poetic language, Rice’s autobiography is perfect for those who want to better understand postwar buildings, our concrete environment, or are budding students of engineering and architecture.