World chess champions stand no chance against high-powered computers. Artificial intelligence enables autonomous cars and recognises faces and language. In structural engineering too, algorithms are unbeatable for handling high levels of complexity, simulating the structural behaviour of buildings and optimising material use. Are humans soon to be superfluous in design? Norbert Gebbeken, President of the Bavarian Chamber of Civil Engineers, thinks not: “Knowledge of the codes and regulations can be captured in algorithms, but no machine can replace us humans in matters of creativity and decision-making.” You can read his full interview with structure editors in the pages that follow.
Human creativity was also needed in the projects covered by this issue. New York’s honeycomb mega-sculpture “The Vessel” was just as less of a purely computer task as the nearby culture centre “The Shed” with its rolling steel and foil roof or the hotel and shopping centre “Jewel” at Singapore Airport with its 200 x 150 m glass gridshell and the world’s largest indoor waterfall. Successful construction of the office building in Lyon-La Confluence with an external reinforced concrete structure, or the timber high-rise in Mjøstarnet, Norway, which had to become several metres taller following a late request from the client, also called on engineers to exercise their powers of imagination.