UT Graduate Students Wins Structural Engineering Traveling Fellowship

     A University of Texas civil engineering graduate student will study some of the architectural marvels of Europe this summer after winning the 1999 Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Foundation Structural Engineering Traveling Fellowship.

     Mark Waggoner, a student in the structural engineering area, will journey to France, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany on the $7,500 fellowship he won by submitting an essay and travel itinerary. The foundation is a charitable branch of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, a premier architectural firm based in Chicago, which is best known for designing the Sears Tower and Hancock Tower in Chicago.

     "I came up with a kind of chronological study of efficient structural forms such as arch bridges, roof vaults, domes, concrete shells, and cable net structures," Waggoner says of his winning itinerary and essay. Waggoner was one of three semi-finalists invited to the final competition in New York in mid-March, where he was interviewed by a panel consisting of a Skidmore, Owings & Merrill engineer, prominent New York engineers and a senior staff writer for Engineering News-Record Magazine.

     The jury commented that "Mark had the most philosophically sound approach toward the competition’s emphasis on aesthetics, efficiency, economy and innovation in structural design. The essay had a good balance between old and new projects and buildings and bridges. The proposed itinerary will expose the Fellow to a wide variety of structures and designers."

     Waggoner’s two-month trip will begin in Paris in mid-June, where he will study Gothic cathedrals and see other famous Paris structures, such as the Eiffel Tower. Next stop is Italy, where Waggoner will visit ancient Roman domes and vaults, as well as some 1940s- and 1950s-era concrete structures by engineer Pierre Luigi Nervi. Then it’s off to Switzerland, where he will study a series of bridges by Robert Maillart and Christian Menn, as well as some concrete shells (a type of thin roof vault) by engineer Heinz Isler. His trip finishes in Germany, where he will study recent work by engineer Jorg Schlaich, best known for his design of the Olympic Stadium in Munich.

     The Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Foundation gives the annual award to foster a first-hand appreciation of the aesthetic potential inherent in the structural design of buildings, bridges, and other major works of architecture and engineering. Their goals are twofold: to help engineering students become aware of the visual impact of structures and to help strengthen the connection between aesthetics and efficiency, economy and innovation in structural design. The foundation ultimately hopes the trip will influence the teaching and practice of structural engineering in the future.

     "I’m hoping that my travel will provide me with ideas and inspiration for designing visually powerful structures," Waggoner notes, adding that he would like to work as a structural engineer for a consulting firm, preferably in Texas.

     A native of Austin, Waggoner graduated from McCallum High School in 1993 and received his bachelor of science in engineering degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 1997. Waggoner will make his summer trip with his new master’s degree in civil engineering in hand, as he is scheduled to graduate in May. His graduate studies, with civil engineering professor Dr. Michael Kreger, have focused on connections for precast concrete bridge substructures.