Beauty in Design…..(really?)

Banora Point Upgrade

Is there really beauty in the design of civil infrastructure? You bet! but you have to look hard to appreciate the elegant beauty of the final product. You see, you can walk down any street, drive any highway and even though it’s there, you are using it, you don’t really notice it. It’s certainly not unobtrusive. So then, is it not beauty?

I wonder if you know that in New South Wales, the state government road provider, RMS, has developed guidelines and principles that steer our designers towards a beautiful outcome? From RMS Pacific Highway guidelines is this wonderful piece of prose…

‘The upgrade should be a sweeping, green highway providing panoramic views to the Great Dividing Range and the forests, farmlands and coastline of the Pacific Ocean; sensitively designed to fit into the landscape and be unobtrusive; and characterised by simple and refined road infrastructure.’

If Banjo Patterson was still alive, would he be inspired to write of the long sweeping arcs around the Byron hinterland? Or would Dorothea Mackellar wax lyrical over the complexity of the light-horse interchange on the M7?

In our daily work lives it is unfortunate that these design philosophies aren’t front and centre of our thinking. The words: Neat angled, feathered top and simple elegant are the basic premise of beautiful infrastructure. It could be said that these words conjure up the image of the natural environment. In the world of Civil infrastructure we tend to rush towards our deadlines and produce hard, straight lined features that end abruptly or are spare and empty of soul. Examples of this are everywhere and even subject to comment on blog sites such as planetizen.

So if you are reading this and not an engineer, don’t think we’re tasteless souls who wear tweed jackets, smoke from a pipe, and use archaic English at parties; we are human, we love beauty too.