As a structural engineer who has also studied architecture, Matthew Wells is not convinced that the two disciplines necessarily merge in perfect buildings. As if to prove his point, he has chosen a structure (engineering) and a building (architecture) which are as far apart as possible.His structure is an old transporter bridge at Royan in western France, discovered on a cycling holiday.
'It was rusting away beside the road bridge. I'd never seen a transporter bridge before, I thought it was utterly fantastic. It was very lightweight, yet 'heavy duty'and it was at a time when I was doing a lot of lightweight structures which were probably a bit effete - glass pavilions, glass staircases, stuff like that.'
The bridge was designed by Ferdinand Arnouldin in about 1890.For Wells it had a 'put together quality, typical of early steelmakers, with quirky Jules Verne details.' Transporter bridges represent a structural dead end that attracts Wells; conversely he finds 'early bits of reinforced concrete much more fascinating than frames you see now'.
The building he has chosen is Alvar Aalto's Museum of Central Finland in Jyvaskyla: 'It's a tiny folklore museum. It doesn't look anything on plan but when you get inside it's one of his best buildings, a very humane space that doesn't seem to follow any rules. It's just completely artless.
Some of Aalto's buildings are deteriorating, I don't know what the museum's like now.'