Monthly Archives: April 2012

“La ingeniería estructural es el arte de modelizar materiales que no comprendemos del todo, en formas que no podemos analizar de un modo preciso, para soportar esfuerzos que no podemos evaluar adecuadamente, de manera que el público en general no tenga razón alguna para sospechar de la amplitud de nuestra ignorancia” – Javier Manterola Armisén, Ingeniero de Caminos, Canales y Puertos.

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“Structural Engineering is the art of modelling materials we don’t fully understand, taking shapes we can’t analyse in a precise way, to withstand stresses we can’t assess properly, in a way that the big public doesn’t ever notice the true reach of our ignorance” – Javier Manterola Armisén, Civil Engineer.

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Many people don’t know about civil engineers, or they have a very slight idea of what they do. This may be because you rarely come across one of them in your daily life. But, whatever you know it or not, they build and shape the world you live in.

Can you imagine a world with no water delivered to your home, with no electricity and no roads? Can you imagine having to walk fot two hours to reach your workplace or school, because there is no subway and no bus? For too many people, this is the very real world they live in. Everyday.

If you’re not one of them is, of course, because of the country you were born in. And of civil engineers. Without civil engineers, that country that provides you with water, energy and transport simply wouldn’t be able to, because it wouldn’t know how to.

When, around 8.000 years ago, first cities were established, their builders had to face overwhelming problems: suddenly, several thousand people lived together, in a very reduced space. All these people needed to eat, to drink, to work and to trade. The availible room had to be managed and splitted between streets and lodging, public places and private houses. And, of course, these houses and public spaces had to be built. Suddenly, many needs arose and they needed a response: dams had to be erected and the water stored and canalized to where it was needed, roads had to be layed out to connect one city to another, streets had to be kept open and clean… This was the seed of later Civil Engineering.

Yes, even if they were not called so, the people who were charged of these things were the pioneers of Civil Engineering. Since then and up to our days, they have built and managed cities and countryside, they have erected dams and channels, bridges and aqueducts, they have protected thousands of lives against natural disasters and ensured the security of many others through stable and durable structures, they have helped conserve and rehabilitate historical heritage, and, working together with architects, brought to reality some of the most impressive and beautiful buildings of the world.

Even if their functions change lightly from one nation to the other, grosso modo there’s at least one civil engineer behind every road, every bridge, every train you catch, every subway system, every dam and every pipe delivering water to your home, every power plant and even every building, street and city. Daily, this world, our world, is built and arranged by civil engineers trying to make it a little better, by making everyone’s life a little easier, more confortable and -why not?- beautiful.