Brunel 200 Legacy The Architecture Centre – The Spirit of Brunel (Mark Simmons).
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The Spirit of Brunel: Collaboration, Innovation and
Pushing Boundaries

This project consisted of a series of talks from engineers of national and/or international eminence who were invited to speak about innovation, technology, creativity and collaboration. The aim was to invite engineers who have worked with artists and architects or who are architect/engineers themselves.

Gillian Fearnyough provided the following report.


• To highlight the value of collaboration.
• To promote the value of design and innovation.
• To assess the audience for an ongoing programme.
• To develop or build on partnerships with other organisations.

We asked speakers to talk about their work and how engineering today can still echo the audaciousness, creativity and ingenuity that Brunel showed. We also asked them to explore the virtues of collaboration and how the search for new ideas inevitably means taking risks and pushing boundaries.

We saw this event as an opportunity for the Centre to work with engineers and emerging engineers, to attract a new audience and to introduce the subject to a wider audience.

The Architecture Centre – The Spirit of Brunel (Mark Simmons).


There were 3 events in the series grouped under the global heading of The Spirit of Brunel; collaboration, innovation and pushing boundaries. Each speaker had a slightly different take on the subject and each talk was generated specifically for this series.

Professor Tony Hunt: Brunel, his contemporaries and the continuing engineering tradition
Tony Hunt is one of Britain’s most highly regarded structural engineers who has worked with prominent architects such as Richard Rogers, Norman Foster and Michael Hopkins. He is also the author of a number of authoritative yet accessible books.

Tony spoke engagingly about Brunel’s adventurous spirit and his role as an entrepreneur as well as those of great engineer, innovator and inventor. Tony contrasted Brunel’s way of working, unconstrained by the complex codes and regulations that we have today, illustrating his talk with his own work as well as work by well-known 20th century engineers.

Tony Hunt has wide experience in building structures of all types and materials but his speciality is in sophisticated steelwork, working closely with most of the leading architects in the UK and also in France. He is first and foremost a designer and is actively involved in the design development of projects. He lectures regularly in the UK, Europe, USA and Canada, acts as jury member for competitions and is a regular book reviewer.

His work has included a number of award winning structures including Schlumberger Research Facility, Cambridge; Waterloo International Station and The Eden Project, Cornwall.

Jim Eye, Wilkinson Eyre and Ian Firth, Flint & Neill: Exploring boundaries together
James Eyre, Partner and Director of Wilkinson Eyre Architects and Ian Firth, Partner at Flint and Neill Partnership shared a platform in a live demonstration of the value of collaboration.

Wilkinson Eyre is known for the Gateshead ‘winking eye’ Millennium Bridge, winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize (2002) and the Royal Academy of Engineering President’s Medal (2004). The practice is engaged in an exceptionally broad range of exciting and award wining work, including the Building Schools for the Future programme in Bristol. Publications include 'The Architecture of Bridge Design', Telford 1997 and 'Bridging Art and Science (the work of Wilkinson Eyre Architects)', Booth Clibborn Editions 2001.

Flint & Neill Partnership projects include the Tsing Ma, Kap Shui Mun and Ting Kau bridges in Hong Kong and nearer to home the Severn, Wye, Erskine and Cleddau bridges in the UK. Ian has also been responsible for more than 20 pedestrian bridge designs, including the award-winning Lockmeadow footbridge, Kent.

Jim Eyre’s approach demonstrates that the best results can be achieved where the creative boundaries between disciplines are blurred. His talk was lively challenging and interesting and was very well received by an audience of 51 in the Arup auditorium, and continued after the main event.

Alistair Lenczner, Foster and Partners: The Reckless Engineer
Alistair Lenczner is Associate Partner at Foster & Partners and since joining the company in 1998 has been involved in a number of high profile projects.

At almost four times the height of the original, and covering twice the area, the new Wembley Stadium will be the largest all-covered football stadium in the world. Alistair Lenczner has worked continuously on the project since its inception with prime responsibilities for the stadium’s overall planning, its geometric definition and its roof design including the moving roof system and the giant arch supporting the roof. He also acted as architect responsible for the Millau Viaduct in southern France throughout its construction phase. Other profile projects include the Millennium Footbridge London, a competition design for the new Munich Stadium and the master-plan for the West Kowloon cultural hub project in Hong Kong.

In the dramatic arena of the Arnolfini auditorium Alistair gave a wide ranging talk highlighting changed ideas about risk since Brunel’s time.


We were pleased to get 4 extremely prestigious and high profile speakers to come to the city. All took the subject matter seriously and produced excellent lectures which were generally pitched at the right level for general understanding while encompassing quite sophisticated ideas about engineering and design.

We decided to make a small charge to make up the short fall in funding – although having said this we believe the charge helps give talks some status and both ensures and controls bookings. We offered free tickets to students.

We thought the response was reasonable, given the number of conflicting events scheduled for this period. We believe the Architecture Centre needs to regain a reputation for holding good talks and lectures and this series certainly helped us to do this.”


Gillian Fearnyough, Director
The Architecture Centre
16 Narrow Quay

To find out more about the work of The Architecture Centre, its programme of lectures and events and its conferencing facilities, visit their website at:

Photography: Mark Simmons.