Young Structural Engineer of the Year Harriet Eldred, 26, talks about working on the Serpentine Pavilion with Sou Fujimoto
Where have you come from?
I’ve been a structural engineer at AECOM for four years. Before that I studied Engineering at Cambridge.
Why did you choose to go into engineering?
I like numbers and building things; engineering seemed the obvious choice.
Why did AECOM want to be involved in the Serpentine Pavilion project?
It is the highlight of London’s architectural summer. David Glover, head of global building engineering at AECOM, worked on previous pavilions while at Arup and we were delighted to be invited to support Sou Fujimoto this year.
What were the biggest challenges on the pavilion?
I’ve become quite used to working with AECOM’s own architects which is great as we all sit very near to each other so we are always there to ask and answer questions. So, working with an architect who is based in Tokyo had its challenges, especially given the very tight programme. But we got around it by having daily conference calls and sharing a lot of live 3D models.
What were the differences between working with a UK architect and a Japanese one?
The creative process is different with each architect. Fujimoto designed a very complex structure made up of more than 20,000 individual elements and 9,000 nodes, compared with the 1,000 to 2,000 found in a typical building. The quality of the detailing and fabrication is a fundamental part of the pavilion’s design so our work will be on show for everyone to see. While this has certainly generated some pressure, we are looking forward to having visitors ask themselves ‘How did they manage to achieve that?’
How much input did you have?
Quite a lot really – we had a lot to do and virtually no time to do it.
What do you like most about working with architects? And what do you feel they could do better?
I love the crazy schemes that architects come up with and the imagination behind it. I really enjoy working with architects to turn those ideas into a reality. Sometimes that’s a really great and collaborative process, but sometimes it does feel a bit like swimming against the tide.
What do you think should be done to tackle the lack of female voices in architecture and engineering?
The industry is moving in the right direction and I have never felt myself to be at a disadvantage. Careers events at local schools are a great way to let girls know what a career in architecture or engineering is all about.