In Great Britain, a building engineer fulfills the roles we give to architectural engineers here in the U.S. The Chartered Association of Building Engineers, or CABE, is a British organization to unify the profession there. They have their own website: Chartered Association of Building Engineers (cbuilde.com)
In America, we have no association of “building engineers,” but we have the Architectural Engineering Institute, Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI) | ASCE , which is a division of the ASCE, or American Association of Civil Engineers.
In both cases, they are over a wide range of building necessities, from the original design, to engineering the maintenance or retrofitting or repair of existing structures. Architects create designs based on the nexus of art and practical structure—interior space, light, energy use, ventilation, exterior aesthetics, and use of materials and accessible elements. Engineers have to make all that work practically. So architectural engineers have the challenging task of working with architects and making their sometimes impractical plans practically possible.
Controversy in Building Engineering, or Architectural Engineering
Frank Gehry is a Pritzker Prize–winning architect. He tends toward the design of very controversial buildings and generously spices his public interviews with profanity. He recounted how he and his wife bought an older home in Santa Monica in 1978, and needing more space for their children, he refitted it with corrugated galvanized metal panels and plywood panels, surrounded by soaring wraps of chain-link fence. He said the retrofitting only cost $50,000 and was aesthetically pleasing from within their home.
The neighbors did not necessarily think so. From outside photos, it looks like a dutch barn-style home received a dose of industrial warehouse materials and was then “bedazzled” with some large, multi-panel window boxes. Mr. Gehry recounted that one of his neighbors, a lawyer, took him to court to prevent the change to their staid, traditional neighborhood. Gehry won. Beauty remains in the eyes of the beholder as far as the California courts are concerned.
In July 2021, one of Gehry’s more recent designs opened to more public controversy, the Luma Arles Arts Center in Arles, France. he building is part of a park restoration in an area of old abandoned French rail warehouses. Although it purports to reflect back to Arles’ ancient history, like the Roman Amphitheatre there, and Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” which Vincent painted from a nearby lunatic asylum, many reviewers find it aesthetically shocking. From the modern Architecture magazine, Dezeen, one reviewer asked:
Why do some of Gehry’s designs look like it took as much effort as crumbling up a piece of foil, throwing it down, and proclaiming, “Voila! I am such a genius in formulating all those complex folds, no one would ever guess how easy it was, wink, wink!”
The building encloses 15,000 square meters or about 150,000 square feet of interior space. It uses approximately 11,000 stainless steel panels, set at innumerable angles with seemingly abstract twists and turns.
Architects and Architectural Engineers Working Together
Since this all needs to be built and then maintained, there was undoubtedly an architectural or “building” engineer who had to figure out how to use standard structural elements like I-beams, screws, frames, etc. to create this infinity of angles and shining squares and “bolted-on” window boxes. It appears that there are no two angles, nor even two steel panels, which are set in the same way. This also means that seals and joints, which are unprotected from rain, wind, and sun, must all continue to resist water, sun damage, and wind, for the life of this obelisk without the convenience of duplication.
The task of working with architects as they unfold their designs dripping in controversy, post-modern ideas, and potentially impractical designs, and not only making them practically possible to construct, but also maintaining them for decades, or retrofitting them when they break down, all falls on the architectural engineer, or, as the Brits would say, the building engineer.
Here at Areté engineers, we are not, strictly speaking, architectural engineers, although we do work for both architects and demanding homeowners, helping to create and retrofit demanding and beautiful designs.
Areté Provides Structural Engineering Services to the Building Community
Do you have questions about structural engineering? Arete Engineering does structural engineering design of homes and commercial buildings, plans for wall removals, decks, and other renovations, and structural assessments on existing homes and buildings. Areté Structures designs and builds Fiberglass-Reinforced Polymer pedestrian bridges. Areté Infrastructure division designs and inspects major and minor bridges throughout the Southeast. Come visit us at: Home – Areté Engineers.