Video feature: Engineering students explore Spanish bridges

July 6, 2015 noon
Engineering students learn about Spanish bridge design Maria Garlock, Ignacio Payá-Zaforteza

Maria Garlock (left), associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Ignacio Payá-Zaforteza (right), the William R. Kenan Jr. Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Keller Center, taught the class "A Social and Multi-dimensional Exploration of Structures" last fall. Garlock says, in bridge design, "If you hit elegance and efficiency and economy, then you've reached a level called structural art." 

Photo courtesy of Ignacio Payá-Zaforteza

With a trip to Spain as a high point, Princeton University undergraduates participated in a semester-long study of Spanish bridge design in the class "A Social and Multi-dimensional Exploration of Structures."

Instructors for the course, offered last fall, were Maria Garlock, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Ignacio Payá-Zaforteza, who was the William R. Kenan Jr. Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Keller Center during the last academic year.

Focusing on eight bridges and working in groups, the students learned about design and structure as well as economical, political, cultural, environmental and geographical context. They presented their work to the class during site visits to the bridges over fall break.

"For all of these structures, efficiency and economy are absolutes, and it's something that all engineers must strive for," said Garlock, who directs the program in architecture and engineering. "But elegance is the bullseye. If you hit elegance and efficiency and economy, then you've reached a level called structural art."

"For me, engineering is not just the technical part," Payá-Zaforteza said. "You can do things which are economical, which are remarkable, but also which are beautiful."

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering offers the course every few years, changing the theme each time. Previous courses have focused on German thin-shell structures and tall buildings by Fazlur Khan.

For more information about the course, please visit the course website.

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