Imperial College London

IMPCL01Creative Design as part of the M.Eng degree course

The Ove Arup Foundation offered funding in 1998 for a part-time Chair in Design at Imperial College London. The motivation behind the funding was to boost the emphasis of the art of engineering, to complement the science that underpins it.

Chris Wise was appointed to the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Imperial College London and was quickly joined by Ed McCann. From 1998-2004, they ran a Creative Design thread through the first three years of the four-year degree.

The Ove Arup Foundation funded the design chair for its first five years, and it is a mark of the value that Imperial places on the teaching of design in this way that the College is now funding the course itself. The Foundation continues, however, to maintain a strong interest in the development of the course, and meets regularly with College staff to provide feedback and suggestions from an industry perspective.

The Trustees hoped that this initiative would lead to a wider recognition of the benefits of a design emphasis, and this has been realised with the Constructionarium — a practical approach to showing students the interface between theory, design and practice. The Constructionarium has been run successfully since 2002 and Leeds University ran its first in June 2005, with a number of other universities taking up an interest.

The facilities are provided by the Construction Industry Training Board’s National Construction College in Norfolk, and the construction teaching is shared by contractors from industry who provide materials, plant, equipment, staffing and knowledge.

From 2005, Chris Wise and Ed McCann will be concentrating their Imperial College work on the Constructionarium, so a teaching team has been created for the first- and second-year Creative Design courses and for the Group Design Project in the third year. The teaching team draws on the practical experience of Dr Sunday Popo-Ola, but will also involve staff from a mixture of disciplines as well as a range of guest lecturers.

Professor Stephen Glaister, who is Professor of Transport Infrastructure, and who also works with Transport for London, is responsible for academic leadership, and there are architectural expertises within the support group. The Group Design Project, held in third year along with the Constructionarium, will continue to be the culmination of the three-year learning process where students will demonstrate their grasp of design, theory and practical engineering by working as if in consulting or contracting firms. It is a ‘total immersion’ approach to learning.

The Trustees are pleased to observe that the teaching of Creative Design has been well embedded in the curriculum of a leading university. Moreover, this has not relied on the involvement of individuals but has been recognised as a key element drawing on many disciplines.

To find out more about the course, please email the Academic Administrator, Mrs Louise Green, at