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ImageWith an estimated 600 in attendance from all parts of the UK, the Annual Gala Awards and Dinner were held at the Grosvenor House in London this week. This event, was chosen as the premiere event for the construction industry in the UK by the Prime Minister in 2001 and is a showcase for British talent in the civil engineering field and for projects originating both within and outside the country.

Opening the ceremonies David Shaw, chairman of the 2007 judging panel spoke about the need to “look more holistically” when designing and constructing new buildings and infrastructure. He mentioned that of 64 articles on the topic of construction in national news recently, that 50 (80%) gave a negative impression of them. Shaw said, “we need to do more by involving people into partnerships, and the need exists to help others solve problems.” His remarks were pointed, in that the industry must connect to the public more often, more effectively and represent them properly. Two main projects are driving the industry at the present time, he said. They are the Olympics buildings and infrastructure and the CrossRail project.

Antony Oliver, editor at New Civil Engineer magazine mentioned the recent passing of Mike Winney in 2007 and his long association with the event. “We have lost someone close to us and a friend,” he said.

Broadcaster Kirsty Wark then took to the podium. “I am passionate about building.” She went on to say, “bridges, chimneys and towers all give a sense of belonging and they hold memories which anchor people to places.” Wark proceeded to explain the importance of infrastructure, interjecting with jokes for some projects at the same time.

The 20th Anniversary Major Building Award was presented to the ‘Eden Project’ and the Major Civil Engineering Award went to ‘The Channel Tunnel” project. The Prime Minister’s Award was presented to the Dalby Forest Visitor Centre, a project designed with sustainability in mind and now used for teaching kids and adults about environmental topics.

Small Building Project Award went to the Cass Sculpture Foundation Centre, Goodwood while the Small Civil
Engineering Project Award was presented to Tilford Bridges, Surrey. This bridge is a monument designed in the 13th century, which has now been restored while maintaining historic integrity. The very unique National Cold War Museum, RAF Cosford achieved the Building Award. This structure was highly energy efficient and included a uniquely shaped roof.

The Civil Engineering Award, sponsored by Autodesk for projects valued between 3 and 50M GBP went to RNLI Padstow Lifeboat Station. It included an integrated design where all the materials were delivered via the sea. The Emirates Stadium is a 60,000 stadium in London NS and is widely considered to be one of the best football stadiums in Europe. It was presented with the Major Project Award. Other award winners included,

Best Practice Award – Lower Witham Flood Defence Scheme

Local Authority Award – Paradise Park Children’s Centre

Conservation Award – The Roundhouse

Environmental Award – Innovate Green Office

Regeneration Award – Bridge Arts Centre, Glasgow

Judges’ Special Award – Camp Bastion Military Base, Afghanistan

International Award – Hearst Tower – New York

UK Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism, Margaret Hodge spoke about the need to connect infrastructure to people. She said, “we need to demand and expect good design more often.” In her view, building good places is a “team skill.”

Next year the event will be held in the same place around the same time of year. Keep an eye out for the announcement. In the meantime, if you have a chance, each of these projects are worth visiting if you are in the area. They represent the best of what the civil engineering community in the UK has to offer.

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