Why I love Civil Engineering!

“Working on this bridge made me the proudest kid on the block; I had contributed to society made a difference, worked on a project that had the potential to save lives”

Find out more about me and why I am passionate about civil engineering and what I believe civil engineers can achieve on the John Donaghy tab.

Lets Go! Lego!

Series 1/3: For the Love of Lego – This series reflects on the role Lego can play in understanding and tackling engineering problems.


A couple of months back I got a message from my sister advising me that Transport for London had made a Lego bus stop outside the London Hamleys store on Regent Store. Immediately I started looking for conferences or training opportunities that would give me an excuse to get down to the City. Lego has always been a passion for me and growing up I constantly had Lego trains driving round my room. It was a daily challenge trying to lay out a Lego track and try and use the room as a functional space. It is therefore not a surprise to my family that I decided to become a civil engineer and have always had a passion for railways.

Quite often we can see engineers as Lego designers setting the instructions and restricting what we can achieve. The truth is far from that’ an engineer’s role is to expand and change the scope of what we believe to be possible. Every challenge presents a new set of problems, the role of an engineer is to find creative and innovative ways of overcoming these problems. We do set constraints based on health and safety and we map out these constraints. The role of an engineer is to challenge these boundaries; creating breakthroughs with new materials and methods. An engineer has to stay within the boundaries of what is feasible but create the extraordinary.

“LEGO SERIOUS PLAY taps into the human ability to imagine – to describe and make sense of the business at hand, to initiate change and improvement, and even to create something radically new”

Lego Serious Play is a great example of the power of creativity and constraints. The philosophy of serious play lies within the power of the imagination. It uses Lego construction to tell a story, presenting a catalyst for people to connect and exchange ideas. It is a simple idea and its strength lies within the constraints of the physical bricks. The constraints enable the untold story to unfold guided by the available resources. These ideas are also present in Lego Creationary where upon selecting a card you have to present an object with limited bricks. The game forces the player to be creative by using the Lego bricks for different uses other than originally intended. This is a core value of innovation and aligns with the idea that true innovation is born from the necessity to overcome challenges with limited resources.

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There and Back Again

Series 3/3: Space Time Continuum – This series reflects on the then and the now, the old and the new, on how we connect with an ever evolving urban landscape.

The following entry is dedicated to people suffering from Dementia and those that care for them.


In the previous series we have reflected on the importance of stories that connect people to places and the role of new technologies in social innovation. What is the balance required between new and old to create smarter cities that work for the community. With an increase in PFI (Private Funding Initiative) buildings are being designed with a life span of 30 to 40 years. This enables the design to meet the rapid changes in building functionality and as form follows function a change in function leads to a change in form. What are the affects of this ever changing landscape on the community?

People require stories to connect with their built environment; stories can be found in history. When history is removed from a place the sense of connection is lost. It is a well known fact that individuals suffering from Dementia need continuity as their long term memory is less effected than short term. This has led to some interesting use of technology and design to improve the quality of life of Dementia patients (e.g. Dementia Phones and RemPods). What role can the built environment play in improving the quality of life of Dementia patients?

There is a few different ways the industry has responded to this question. The old is not necessarily destroyed as its form outlives its function instead the building is provided with a new function. In new builds the planning permission stage may require investment into the renovation of local buildings. New builds can also pick up on local themes and tell the story of the area; this is what the Vimto Gardens development in Salford, Chapel Street, is achieving. This preserves the identity of the local community and enables people to connect with their built environment. It also enables people to discover their community in a new light. This type of design can improve the lives of Dementia patient as well as enable us all to better connect with our built environment.

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