12: Draw with a Pen

If you don't like to write words, sketch ideas of structural systems or buildings.  Buy a sketchbook and use a pen, so you can't erase your mistakes.  Mistakes are important reminders that you are an idiot (like everyone else).  The best preparation for life as an engineer is the understanding of our ignorance.

In 1850 J. Monier, a French gardener, developed a flowerpot with reinforced concrete in the hand sketches above on his patent shown on the right.  In 1867 he patented reinforced garden tubs and, later, reinforced beams.  We engineers owe a debt of gratitude to this gardener.

In the terrific book "Structural Engineering:  The Nature and Theory of Design" William Addis states:

Up until the turn of the century, it was standard practice for engineers to keep their own notebooks containing annotated sketches of hundreds of interesting designs and details they have seen in their travels; this formed a body of knowledge upon which a designer could draw and provided an important link to the past.  Also, until the present century, engineering textbooks and encyclopedias often used to contain many examples of successful designs, both ancient and modern.   Nowadays, young engineers are generally brought up without a good knowledge of precedent and to believe that mathematics of engineering science encapsulates all they need to know. [Addis, 1990:xii]

Does this sound familiar?

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