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Happy Birthday, SSDA

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The Structural Steel Design Awards (SSDA) is 50 years old this year and in this issue of NSC we start a new series to mark that achievement with a look at some of the project highlights of the Award’s first ten years. Articles on the following decades will be carried over our next four issues.

A look at the first ten years of winners quickly reveals that the ambition to make the SSDA among the most prestigious in construction was there from the beginning.

Engineering excellence, innovation, speed of construction and economy are among the features common to all of the projects, which are still efficiently providing infrastructure and accommodation services 50 years on, such as the 25-storey Winterton House in Tower Hamlets, London, an iconic structure locally and one of the tallest buildings in the Borough. Heathrow’s Terminal 1 was an inaugural year winner, and all major UK airport terminal buildings since then, as well as other key airport structures like Gatwick’s Air Bridge, have featured steel.

Four of the inaugural year’s eight awards went to bridges, such as the Tinsley Viaduct over the M1, and a pedestrian bridge in a shopping centre. Bridges have featured strongly in the Awards ever since, often becoming tourist attractions in their own right. The St Katherine-by-the-Tower Inner Lifting Bridge became a tourist draw from its inception in 1974. We can hopefully look forward to seeing steel bridges perform strongly in construction of HS2 in years to come.

From those early days of the Awards we have seen inspiring examples of leading engineering and architectural design excellence, as well as the world-class contribution from steelwork contractors. In many cases we could point to examples of innovation that the construction industry generally is still catching up on. Offsite construction for example is now attracting champions from all quarters, but it has always been a feature of steel construction, and a great example can be seen in the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, which hugely impressed the judges who said it was an extreme example of a flexible shed.

This 133m-long structure – architect Norman Foster’s first public building – incorporated exhibition and teaching spaces, restaurants and offices, fabricated to a tight programme and tight tolerances, and erected over only 18 weeks. The Centre has its own celebrations this year to mark 40 years of operation and is holding a major exhibition called Superstructures that highlights the use of new technology, lightweight structures and innovative engineering techniques and solutions. Construction of this SSDA award winner itself will, fittingly, feature in the exhibition, as will much of the quality in construction that has become familiar to SSDA judges over the years.

A full list and description of all SSDA winners can be found at:–_50th_Anniversary_Year

Nick Barrett

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