Some of my best days on the job have involved unusual vehicles. Helicopters? Top notch day. Chicago River tour boat? Not quite as speedy or as vertigo-inducing, but this was a pretty good day this week.
Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering offers a three-course sequence in architecture for students who want to explore design. In 2010 I chipped in, helping Larry Booth with a few lectures and desk crits, and they’ve very generously invited me back every year or so to talk about skyscrapers or to sit on reviews. This year, the School offered a two-hour boat tour to its students as a way of highlighting the architecture course, and they asked me to be part of an all-star tour guide team. That’s structural engineering professor David Corr talking about lift bridges and concrete counterweights there, and we were joined by historian extraordinaire David Van Zanten. Between the three of us, we covered what we could–the tour flies past given the density of stuff to talk about.
I got to spend a bit of time with students in the architecture program as well. Prof. Booth is using the Du Sable Park site–the same one my studio at ISU is using this semester–but they’re putting a 200-story tower on it, a suitable scale for engineers. It’s always interesting to see how the discipline can be approached from a strong technical background. Usually, we worry about beefing up students technical knowledge without putting the brakes on their creativity or energy. The challenge in these courses is to get students to think beyond structure and construction, which they’ve done with striking success.
The weather was spectacular, the drive back the next morning included the lunar eclipse and blood moon in the windshield most of the way home, and I’m sure I learned more from the boat tour than I taught anyone…for sure. Thanks to all involved for a great day out on the water…