Structural engineering – an amazing job

Malcolm Richards is a senior structural engineer and director at Capita Symonds

“I’ve been doing this job for over 30 years now and quite simply, I can’t think of a more amazing job. Where else would I get to build stage sets for the Rolling Stones, work on the Olympic Stadium, and get to work with the late Norman Foster? There’s just such a tremendous variety that crosses your desk.

When I was project lead for the stage sets on AC/DC’s tour, I was approached by a set builder and asked if I could design a trainwreck – a ‘Runaway Train’ to go with their 2008 hit single. Between us, we created this 6m high train that slides down the stage in a blaze of lights, smoke and pyrotechnics, rotates and turns into a staircase from which the lead guitarist steps out and starts the show. We also had to work out how did get a quarter ton inflatable woman called Rosie out of the train and then back in it again – one of the most technically difficult bits!

Over the years I’ve done everyone from U2, Tina Turner, Queen, Paul McCartney in Tel Aviv, Bruce Springsteen, and I even did LiveAid as a freebie.

Over the years I’ve done everyone from U2, Tina Turner, Queen, Paul McCartney in Tel Aviv, Bruce Springsteen, and I even did LiveAid as a freebie.

I just love the variation and challenge of engineering. Really you are only limited by your imagination. I was good at maths at school, and I do like the practical and intellectual challenge of engineering, the fact that you’ve got to think outside the box, come up with solutions and make things work. An awful lot of what you do benefits other people. I’ve done a number of schools, offices, industrial units and hospitals. You also get to leave something tangible behind for the generations after you. I’ve already worked on a number of buildings that have been listed.

Engineering is an unbelievable occupation for anyone who feels they need to express themselves. It’s creative, but it’s also got to be possible to build what you’re working on. It brings together material science as well as design. And more than that, it’s great fun. Structural engineering is the best job ever.”

Malcolm Richards

Malcolm Richards is a senior structural engineer and director at Capita Symonds

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