Engineering aesthetics in technical design and construction can often re-emerge in the physical, observable world in new, startling ways. This miraculous cycle emerges each time a new structure , piece of equipment, or personal device emerges from concept to fully matured reality. What’s produced is the result of an inspiring act of creation that blurs the line between traditional sciences and the arts.
Last autumn I was at the Phoenix Art Museum and there was an exhibit by the photographer Jamey Stillings on the construction of the new Hoover Dam Bridge. The vast scale of what he was able to capture in pictures beautifully captures exactly those aesthetics that are inherent in engineering design. With the common public, design and creation often means something tangible, visible. The beauty that emerges from this process is like a condensation of ideas, from concept to completed structure, a process that Stillings captures in breathtaking fashion. It’s also a testament to what society is capable of when the building contractors, engineers, architects, and designers all bring their intangible knowledge together to create tangible outcomes.
Stillings photographs reveal the elegance in the convergence of aesthetic and engineering design that occurs, in this case flawlessly by necessity, before a project of the scope of the Hoover Dam can stand on its own. In some of the photographs, the desert backdrop of the construction makes the bridge appear as if it were being built on another planet, echoing the same level of alien informality that much of the public holds when considering what engineers actually do. It is easy for individuals trained in engineering, when asked about the profession, to instinctively rattle off the technical complexities of one’s field, oftentimes increasing that alienation. But imagine if an engineer could just point to a Stillings photograph and proclaim, “This! This is what I do!”
Take a look at some of these photos for yourself at theartist’s personal Web siteon the bridge project.
Is it an art form?
The engineering, I mean.
Published July 9, 2012 by Austin Lin
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of and should not be attributable to the National Society of Professional Engineers.