Art in Engineering in Galway, with Partridge!

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For the last 12 years Partridge has enjoyed the privilege of developing and partaking in a week long ‘short course’ at the University of Sydney Civil Engineering School.  This ‘short course’ is part of a mandatory 12-week Civil Engineering Design module for all Civil and Structural engineering students at Sydney University. Following the success of this ‘short course’ and positive student and faculty feedback Eamonn Madden, Director at Partridge, was inspired to expand the course internationally.  Eamonn has been instrumental in introducing the course to first year multi-discipline engineering students at the National University of Ireland, Galway, where he graduated 40 years ago.

The purpose of this course is to awaken the student’s interest in the arts and to demonstrate that a career in the engineering and construction industry can be greatly enriched by allowing space to appreciate art, beauty and creativity.  This course also aims to promote greater understanding of architecture and creative thinking to enable closer co-operation and communication with architects and promote more adventurous and creative engineering solutions.  The course is designed to achieve this by increasing students’ awareness of the world of art and architecture, and giving them opportunities to experience the creative process, their emotions, and develop a respect for creative disciplines they will encounter in their engineering careers.

During Eamonn’s engineering undergraduate experience, he received little to no education in the arts or creative thinking. Talking to our recent engineering graduates, this has not changed. Most engineering students are attracted to an engineering course of study because of their skills in mathematics, physics and chemistry. Humanities subjects are not a prerequisite for engineering university acceptance and are often overlooked as high school subjects at the expense of scientific based ones.  At Partridge we believe that engineering is an inherently creative endeavour and our palette is an understanding of the forces of nature, the knowledge of material behaviour and the mathematics to balance them safely and elegantly.

Usually, the art component of the class would be held at the University grounds where students are given a topic or an emotion and tasked with using paint or charcoal to create an artwork and also provide a brief written description. This year due to Covid disruptions the course had to be adapted to work within the constraints of pandemic life.  The University of Ireland students were forced to think laterally as the students were asked to create an artwork at home using their choice of materials. The theme this year was ‘Connection and Isolation’. The top mark was awarded to Alice Shaughnessy with her artwork ‘Out of Touch’.  The second highest mark was awarded to Hasan Kahan with his work ‘Empty Space’.

Alice Shaughnessy – ‘Out of Touch’:

“Lockdown #1. 2-weeks they said: We adjusted to seeing our loved ones through the Zoom lens. When we came out the other side, we gathered and laughed again. But behind those smiles was fear: Am I risking someone’s health by being here, even though it’s ‘allowed’?  When the second lockdown hit, we were all exhausted by this ‘new normal’. Calls with friends became little to none. Everyone was so used to aloneness; it was draining to maintain conversations. What’s there to talk about anyway: Did you see the numbers today? Shocking. Lockdown #3, bring it on. But this time, this time I couldn’t tell you what was going on in anyone’s lives.” Alice Shaughnessy, First Year Engineering NUI Galway.

Alice Shaughnessy – ‘Out of Touch’

Hasan Khan – ‘Empty Space’

Hasan Khan – ‘Empty Space’:

“There’s this invisible barrier wedged between us, and there’s only so long we can hold on, before friendships rip at the seams. We’ll always have this gap in our lives, where we were, all, out of touch.

Loneliness, for me, funnily, is not experienced on its own, but rather a feeling accompanied by many emotions. To truly be alone, one must have previously experienced togetherness, friendship and camaraderie, so loneliness isn’t addictive like other feelings, but the lack of something else. Negative space, which previously was filled. We go from being alone to connecting through technology as seen in the artwork. It is both a connector and disconnector, allowing for communication without spirit and emotion. However, we may be isolated now, it will not be forever. Life still lies ahead, and life will go on, hopefully we will be able to share it with others. The sun will always rise tomorrow. “Hasan Khan, First Year Engineering NUI Galway.

This course has been recognised internationally with publications in the Institution of Structural Engineers UK magazine August 2014 and an engineering article accepted to the World Engineering Convention 2019 which Eamonn Madden was invited to present the paper to around 100 delegates attending.

We love seeing the outstanding work the students produce as they explore their own emotions and creativity. We believe this course provides benefit to the students personally and the industry as a whole. We look forward to continuing our involvement with both the University of Sydney and the National University of Ireland.   We are also seeking opportunities with one of the Melbourne based Universities to offer this course to their students as well.