Civil Engineering students triumph at WSP design challenge to create iconic landmark for London

A group of civil engineering students from the University of Leeds have won a design challenge run by WSP to create an iconic building which would add a new dimension to London’s skyline.

Sixty five final year civil and structural engineering students took part in the competition, which was linked to the Integrated Design Project module undertaken by students in their final year.

The competition was launched at the University of Leeds by a team from WSP’s Leeds office last November. Groups were asked to create a new 180m landmark residential scheme to fit in the dynamic skyline of London, inspired by the ambitious and striking tower blocks which punctuate the vistas of South American cities such as Sao Paulo or Buenos Aires. WSP asked the students to develop both architectural and structural design concepts, giving them an insight into the challenges faced by engineers working in the industry.

Following the initial design stages five teams were chosen to visit WSP’s London head office, to present their concepts to a judging panel made up of senior engineers from WSP and an architect from Foster & Partners. The judges chose the ‘Verde Tower’ as the winning design – a striking double tower skyscraper connected by interlinking bridges – which was conceived by fourth year structural engineering students Thomas Alexander, David Palmer, Caroline Louise Bryce, James Matthew Lomas, Sam Thomas Ford and Harry Lin.

Andrew Woodward, senior technical director at WSP and one of the judging panel said: “The Verde Tower represented the most complete engineering project, and the team have designed a building that is both visually striking, but also efficient and within budget. This was a fantastic opportunity for students to experience a realistic client/consultant relationship and respond to a brief against a real-time deadline. Not only was it an opportunity to utilise the practical skills they are learning, but the competition challenged the students to scale the heights of their creativity.”

Najwa Jawahar, from WSP’s Leeds office added: “It is fantastic to see the passion and creativity from what will be the next cohort of engineers working in the industry. We’ve really enjoyed working with the students over the last three months and there are already plans to repeat the challenge with the University of Leeds next year.”

Dr Konstantinos Tsavdaridis from School of Civil Engineering, University of Leeds, commented: “All 12 groups have proposed challenging but realistic designs; the top five ones were outstanding, while students had to develop technical but also other skills which enabled them to justify every decision they have made. I am impressed by their professionalism throughout all stages of the project. It has been a hard working period for all of us but an excellent experience for the students as well as the academic team. I hope we have the opportunity to establish a firm relationship with WSP and repeat the competition with other exciting projects.”

WSP, the structural engineer behind the Shard and New York’s Freedom Tower, is renowned for designing landmark high-rise buildings across the globe, and the Leeds team recently helped achieve planning permission for the 11-storey Central Square development in the city centre.

WSP, in combination with Parsons Brinckerhoff, is one of the world's leading engineering professional services consulting firms, with 31,500 staff, based in more than 500 offices, across 39 countries. In the UK, WSP’s 2700 people provide consultancy services to all aspects of the built and natural environment working with governments, planners, developers and architects.

The firm has been involved in many high profile UK projects including the Shard, Crossrail, New South Glasgow Hospital, the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham and the re-development of London Bridge station. WSP in Leeds, has been involved in some of the most significant redevelopments in the city including the award-winning Trinity Leeds shopping centre - dedicating up to 14 staff to the project, working on building services including environmental controls, heating, air conditioning, acoustics power and lighting. The team were also involved in the New East Leeds project – delivering a comprehensive transport strategy for 5,200 homes, retail, offices, new schools and local centres in the area.

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