060218 #votesforwomen #vote100 what it means for engineering

On Tuesday many people will be marking the centenary of voting rights being extended to women in the UK.

I’ve blogged about this already in the context of Sir John Wolfe Barry, who died a fortnight before the legislation was passed by Parliament in the building designed and constructed by his father and completed by his brother. Interestingly, last week a different assembly finally decided that the same New Palace of Westminster would need to be vacated and renovated in the next few years to prevent it from becoming a death trap!

Why were votes for women so important a hundred years ago and what relevance does this have to the modern engineering sector? Below are some possible answers.

  • (some) women gaining the vote was both a major political reform, as well as a symbolic statement about the place of women in British society.
  • other states were ahead of the UK in this, so there was a need to catch up and show that (some) British women were as equally valued as men.
  • nowadays this might be considered ‘positive discrimination’ to redress a historical imbalance between genders, an approach that can seem controversial with women who believe in equal treatment as opposed to what they would term ‘tokenism’.
  • all the above social context has had an impact on women engineers today.
  • in 2018 we are celebrating engineering as a worthwhile profession for both genders, but which is also a critical sector to a successful post-Brexit UK economy and infrastructure.
  • it is a ‘no-brainer’ to say that more diverse pathways into engineering and allied disciplines can only be good for the nurturing of future talent in a sector which needs to catch up with others.

Whether you agree with these or not, or have your own different ones, please spread the message through your networks so that the debate can go out as widely as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Engineering vs Architecture continued

I’ve commented previously on this site about the relationship between civil engineering and architecture.

The Barry family are an interesting case study because John was the only civil engineer amongst a father and 2 elder brothers who were all successful architects. It isn’t clear whether it was his choice to follow a different profession or his father’s decision. But we do know that he worked together with his brothers on a few projects.

One of these was the construction of railway stations with adjoining hotels at Charing Cross and Cannon Street in London during the early 1860s. Edward Middleton Barry was the architect for both hotels. John worked as a civil engineering assistant to Sir John Hawkshaw who had overall responsibility for the two extensions to the rail line from London Bridge Station.

Another project which linked brothers was the construction of a new HQ for the Institution of Civil Engineers at the time John was it’s President. His other brother Charles was asked to advise on the design from an architectural perspective. Sadly the building was demolished not long after it was completed to make way for the Government’s new Treasury offices in Westminster.

It would be interesting to know how the brothers discussed built environment issues together, whether informally or in a business context. How passionate did emotions get over the use of form as opposed to aesthetics or vice versa?