The multi-disciplinary design team behind Beijing's awe-inspiring Watercube has received the engineering community's most prestigious prize – the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award.
University of Newcastle graduate Mark Arkinstall was a part of the team at Sydney engineering firm Arup, which created the 'Watercube' – the National Swimming Centre built for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
The huge box-shaped building, seemingly filled with soap bubbles, is built from more than 22,000 irregular sized beams and is a remarkable engineering feat.
Mark said the award was as much for the design innovation of the engineering team, as it was for the building itself.
"My brief was to deliver a structural engineering design that met all of the client's requirements, as well as the Chinese design codes," Mark said.
"This included the design of thousands of steel beams for the superstructure – all of which needed to be capable of resisting thermal, wind, fire, snow, earthquake and gravity loads under a host of different conditions."
The team's revolutionary use of multi-disciplinary virtual prototyping and a holistic approach to design was a first for the building industry. Computer automation and optimisation techniques were developed to create the final solution, including programs for structural design, optimisation and tender drawing creation.
Mark attributes his ability to create the computer programs required to design the Watercube to the fundamentals he learned in programming classes at the University of Newcastle during his engineering degree.
Mark graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil). Each year, he returns to the University of Newcastle to present to third and fourth year students studying civil engineering.
The Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award, worth £50,000, was presented by the Duke of Edinburgh in London this week. It is only the fourth time in the Award's 40-year history that a building has won.