David Canada – Emphasis: Architectural, Graduation Date: May 2011
Tyler Diercks– Emphasis: Structural, Graduation Date: May 2012
Justin Hess– Emphasis: Environmental, Graduation Date: May 2011
Todd Magiera– Emphasis: Hydraulics, Graduation Date: May 2011
Gina Whetstone– Emphasis: Structural, Graduation Date: December 2010
Tuesday August 10, 2010
Our first tour of the day was of the Westminster Abbey, which is the same church that our team (Purdue Olympic Worldwide Engineering, aka POW! Engineering) will be presenting through "Project 2" on Wednesday, August 11th. That being said, our group has done previous research on the Abbey, and I think upon visiting the Abbey the first thing that needs to be mentioned is that online images do not do justice to the beauty of the church. Our perceptions of its magnitude and the brilliance of its architecture can only be appreciated by visiting this world wonder in person.
But before going into all that, the Abbey is world renowned because, with only a couple of exceptions, the Abbey is the coronation site of England's Queens and Kings. In addition, it is also the burial site of a great number of these Queens and Kings, as well as other persons who were of royal stature at the time of their demise. On top of this, it houses a deep historical account of England's history, displayed through its memorials of over 3000 persons and tombs of people who played a role in shaping the country and world.
The 30 students were separated into two tours of the Abbey, with Susanna and Sean as their guides (our team had Sean, a very comical and informative guide from Scotland). Sean walked our group through the history displayed by the brilliant architecture outside and inside the Abbey. The attention paid to detail in the architecture of both the Abbey's structure as well as all of its tombs are beautiful, to say the least. The time consumption of such tasks is simply dumbfounding; the structures were built strictly by manual labor (we will say structures as plural because the Abbey was first built in 1065, and since then has been subject to additions and rebuilds). Engineering aspects of the Abbey include the load-bearing flying buttresses and the fan vault pendant ceiling of the Lady Chapel, which was described by Sean as “lacework in stone”.
Rather than go into the history of London revealed within the confines of the Abbey, perhaps it would be best to suggest that it is a must visit. It is an optimal example of Gothic architecture and represents the intricate design of all the architects who employed their time to its shrines and structures.
After a very grey and rainy morning the clouds parted for a lovely and dry afternoon stroll from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace then onto the Thames River. Horse Guards Road was utilized to lead the group past many monumental parliament locations, including but not limited to The Cabinet War Rooms, The Churchill Museum, Downing Street (where the Prime Minster resides), and Her Majesty’s Treasury. After a brief history lesson, we marveled at the brilliant color schemes of the flowered areas and landscaping as we continued onto Buckingham Palace through St. James’s Garden.
After the walk in St. James Park we headed over to Buckingham Palace. It was an absolutely amazing place. If you are walking down the main street directly towards the palace you will first see a huge monument for Queen Victoria. This structure was erected in 1901, the same year the Queen had passed away, as a tribute to her.
Buckingham Palace was originally built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham as a townhouse. However in 1837 it finally became the official royal palace for the British monarch. The first monarch to live in it permanently was Queen Victoria. This is also where the Queen conducts all her daily business. Unfortunately, we were not able to see the Changing of the Guards. In August, the guards only change every other day because the Queen is on holiday during this month.
Upon arrival to the Thames River, one of the first structures to catch one’s attention was the London Eye. The tallest Ferris wheel in Europe and the tallest cantilevered Ferris wheel in the world, measuring at 443 feet tall. The Ferris wheel has 32 egg shaped capsules that fits 25 people per capsule and takes half an hour for one complete revolution. At a price of 17 pounds per person this attraction draws in quite a large sum of money. We found that the wheel itself is supported in a unique fashion, the cantilever method, which produces an illusion of the wheel resembling a bicycle frame and tire. It is absolutely an engineering marvel, unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
After viewing the London Eye, we proceeded to take a boat ride down the Thames River through the heart of Westminster and the City of London. Although the ride only lasted about a half hour, we were able to see many sites and buildings that play a vital role in London’s rich history. One of the first landmarks we passed was a train station that was architecturally designed in such a way that the façade of the building appeared to be a train emerging from the subway.
We went under the Waterloo Bridge, which was interestingly comprised of self-cleaning stone. The rain water thoroughly rinses the stone, and the effectiveness of this low-maintenance design was evident as we passed under the bridge and saw the stained and weathered stone where the rain did not reach. This was likely the most direct example of sustainable design out of the sites we have toured so far.
One of the most recognizable buildings that we passed was St. Paul’s Cathedral which was designed by Christopher Wren. This cathedral was also the site of Prince Charles’ and Princess Diana’s wedding. London’s oldest cathedral, the Southwark Cathedral, which resides in close proximity to the oldest bridge on the Thames, was also a prominent site along the river bend.
The last two bridges of the trip were the London Bridge and the Tower Bridge. The London Bridge proved to be the biggest disappointment of the ride, as it was very bland and seemed to be no different than any of the other bridges we had passed under. The Tower Bridge however, was magnificent! Opened in 1894, the Tower Bridge has a steel structure under the intricate stonework appearing in the bridge’s two towers. At first we assumed that the Tower Bridge was actually the London Bridge due to the fact that its design coincided with the architecture of the London Tower and many of the other sites we have visited thus far. Overall the boat ride was a very informative way to quickly view parts of London we might otherwise have missed, and conveniently docked right next to the Tower of London.
Arriving at the Tower of London after the boat ride in the midst of a light rain storm may have dampened the trip for some but enhanced the experience for all. Given the multiple uses for the Tower in its many years of existence as a fortress, royal palace, zoo, prison, and executions the dreary weather added some aura to the tour.
White Tower, the first portion built in 1067, had many design aspects considered in its creation. Firstly, the Tower was designed with 15 feet thick walls on bottom and 11 feet thick walls on top, which made the Tower easily defendable from attack. Secondly, the Tower had no doors on the ground floor but only on the second. Only one set of wooden stairs led to the entrance on the second floor. The stairs were comprised of wood so that they could be destroyed easily, and thus no enemy could get in. Also the staircase to the White Tower was a spiral design made of wood. The staircase was spiral to the right because a right handed enemy (majority of the soldiers) could not fight easily going up the stairs.
White Tower was designed to give the British all the tactical advantage. In addition, one end of the complex was built up to the edge of the Thames which collapsed multiple times before it was designed correctly. They believed the Tower collapsed many times because of the ghost of St. Thomas Moore. Moore had gone against the King when he separated from the church and, therein, had been executed on Tower Hill. After dubbing this end of the Tower as “St. Thomas’s Tower”, the Tower stopped collapsing.
Today was a Perfect Day in London. Not only did we have fun with our colleagues, we also were able to apply our engineering knowledge to interpret and respect the brilliance of London’s historical structures.