A memoir by one of the greatest structural engineers in history, as told through his most innovative projects.
Leslie Robertson is one of the preeminent structural engineers of the modern era. With hundreds of projects to his credit, his close collaborations with such greats as Minoru Yamasaki, Philip Johnson, Romaldo Giurgola, I. M. Pei, and Gunnar Birkerts has resulted in the production of some of the most structurally innovative and formally daring buildings of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Among Robertson’s advances in engineering are the invention of mechanical damping units to reduce wind-induced swaying, the first use of prefabricated multiple-column and spandrel-wall panels to allow column-free interior space and resist hurricane-level winds, and the shaftwall system for fire-resistive walls now used almost universally in high-rise buildings.
In this memoir, Robertson recounts a long and storied career that stretches back to the 1950s. A restless student with unremarkable performance, it was almost by accident that he first engaged with engineering, but in his earliest projects his eye toward innovation was apparent. Still in his early thirties, he was lead engineer on the landmark IBM buildings in Pittsburgh and Seattle, and immediately thereafter embarked on what would become his signature achievement—which met a tragic end witnessed across the globe—the World Trade Center towers.
A personal and accessible recounting of his partnerships with architects to create classics of modern architecture—including Harrison & Abramovitz’s US Steel headquarters, Philip Johnson’s AT&T Building, and I.M. Pei’s Bank of China building and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum—The Structure of Design provides a privileged look at how the almost invisible but crucial discipline of engineering influences design, as told by a genius and poet of structure.