Theory is Practical: The Philosophy of Design Photo

Theory is Practical: The Philosophy of Design

April 29, 2011, 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center
ITW (1.350)
2133 Sheridan Rd. Evanston , IL 60208


The founders of modern structural engineering created structures that were inspiring in their form and economical in their execution. While this economy was undoubtedly driven by financial pressures, it was also a result of the ideological purity of the design. At the time, complicated structural designs were simply beyond an engineer’s ability to calculate. However, within the past few years, the explosion of computational power has enabled engineers to design and create structures that are extremely complex and beyond one’s ability to comprehend without the aid of a computer (some are conceptually unfathomable even with a computer). Our modern analytical tools can yield a more efficient structure than one achievable through simpler means, but these same tools can also enable the creation of overly complicated structures that are financially and materially expensive. In this lecture, Bill Baker,Partner in Charge of Structural Engineering at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP, will propose a design philosophy to bridge the divide between design and analysis.


William F. Baker is the Structural Engineering Partner for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP. Throughout his distinguished career, Bill has dedicated himself to structural innovation. His best known contribution has been to develop the “buttressed core” structural system for the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest manmade structure. While widely regarded for his work on supertall buildings, his expertise also extends to a wide variety of structures, such as the GM Entry Pavilion and Millennium Park's Jay Pritzker Pavilion and BP Pedestrian Bridge. Bill is also known for his work on long span roof structures, such as the Korean Airlines Operations Center, as well as for his collaboration with artists, including Jamie Carpenter, Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, and James Turrell.

In addition to working at SOM, Bill is actively involved with numerous institutions of higher learning, as well as various professional organizations. He is the 2010 recipient of the Gold Medal from the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE), the first American to receive the Fritz Leonhardt Preis (Germany) and the recipient of the CTBUH's Fazlur Rahman Khan medal. Bill is a Fellow of both the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the IStructE, and frequently lectures on a variety of structural engineering topics within the U.S. and abroad. He was recently elected to the US National Academy of Engineering.

Sponsored by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Distinguished Annual Lecture