Charles Thornton, one of the world’s preeminent structural engineers, once said that the greatest challenge facing the profession of structural engineering is that “I don’t think we have enough self-esteem and enough confidence in ourselves to believe that what we do is so important… Architects are trained to present, to communicate, to sell, to promote themselves, to promote their industry, and to take credit for what they do.”
As a structural engineer with over a decade of experience, I agree with Mr. Thornton—to an extent.
Yes, structural engineering is the red-headed stepchild of the construction process and, yes, some of the fault is ours. The structural engineer doesn’t get the credit that the architect does because as an industry, we have failed to demand it. We have settled into a back seat role rather than asserting ourselves. We play our part, get our check, and move on.
Where I respectfully disagree with Mr. Thornton is his assertion that structural engineers don’t believe what we do is important.
On the contrary, we are very aware of the pivotal nature of our work. The issue is whether other people do, particularly our colleagues in the creative design world.