The engineer

'I am not a person who says engineers are a curse on you: the most exciting structures are combinations of architects and engineers; structural engineers are nearly always creative, as are civil engineers. But traffic engineers - they have become the bogeyman - their strict adherence to codes and rules without thinking of their consequences is the problem. Think of Calatrava today or Brunel, Eiffel, Roebling, Strauss or Khan.19 'Ah, did you know that in the past a mild form of autism was called engineer's disease?' 'As far as anyone can be blamed for the urban mess it is the highway engineer. They don't understand how people, roads and places work.' 'Engineers are bound by performance measures, codes, standards, criteria, guidelines.' 'Their explicit codes contain an implicit culture.' 'The civil engineer will ask, "Will the forces operate correctly? They will as long as we have laid down the proper criteria."' 'They tend to have a belief in an optimum - there is the perfectly functioning system. There cannot be a mistake. For example, the bridge has to stand.' 'Usually this works according to a theoretical design. Thus when they're looking at transport they see it as a flow problem - its all about hydraulics.' 'They insist on huge splays or wide turning circles so there is no accident, messing up the feel of the city along the way.' 'The ideal is a congestion-free environment. They're not very interested in counterposing considerations or arguments.' 'The code of engineers is by default designing the urban fabric. Their guidelines affect everything we see, and if there is no conscious place-making -and not many engineers are into that - we go by default patterns.' 'Ooh - "The highwaymen," I call them. I've had trouble with them, they have a smug certainty that right is on their side, they're on the side of God. Their arguments are always scientific - they could demonstrate through reason how things worked and the consequences when they don't work.' 'They operate in a pseudo-scientific environment trying to find a way through to scientific certainty. Now when you ignore everything else, this is of course easy.' 'Basically they can't handle the emotional.' 'You can't have emotions coming into this. You could feel them thinking, "This is rational."' 'You can't beat them on their own ground. They always had the models or the data to back them up. In the end it was about bludgeoning them and winning over the politicians by appealing to a different side of their brain and with new kinds of arguments about what makes a good place.' 'Christmas lights are done by the highways people - just see the results.'

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