Hugh Morrison is a practising structural engineer with his own company, Hugh Morrison Associates based in Manchester, UK.
He graduated in Architectural Engineering from Leeds University in 1984, which also included a brief 3 month exchange course at Penn State University in USA.
After a 3 year stint at British Aerospace as a stress engineer working on satellites and associated structures during the 1980s recession he secured a post at Arup Associates in London where at last he was able to indulge in his interest in architecture and integration of structural design. Hugh was lucky to begin with a tensile roof structure at Goodwood Racecourse, seconded to the lightweight structures group in Arup, which was quite a learning experience. At Arup Associates engineers conceived drawings together with the architects and M&E engineers. Peter Rice was even called in to check the design of the Goodwood Roof. Peter was fatigued at the time, and had quite a lot of other things to deal with, but it was good to have a little time with the great engineer.
Hugh moved onto another group in Group 1 Arup to gain wider experience of other materials, in Fiztroy Street, head office directed by Tony Stevens; a character who had worked his way to the top from draftsman to leading engineer. The first project was concrete framed structure in the City of London, amongst other things. With a secondment to Chris Wise and Tony Fitzpatrick’s group, both leading designers, with quite a different approach he worked with a team on the, then, highest project in Europe: headquarters of Commerzbank in Frankfurt. He worked on the basement, trying to figure out how to establish jointing with superstructure and the existing bank basement, following a swept curve over the plan, dictated by Norman Foster himself – creating quite a challenge resolving the complex interface between existing and new.
As another recession hit he moved onto the second largest construction project at the time, the HQ of Glaxo in Stevenage. There were fixed deadlines with a group checking every single detail and calculation. It was an exacting process which taught him just how much work is needed to produce drawings and calculations with even the smallest plinth detailed and identified. The contractor on site was dumbfounded; they had never come across such well-produced drawings. Hugh was part of the Industrial Design (IE) group which entailed some process work on pipe supports and so on.
A short spell followed in IE in which he worked up from first principles a ‘creep resistant’ anchor in a subsea structure, involving two design options in grouting: cementitious and epoxy and testing in Aberdeen. Hugh remembers vividly flying to Aberdeen and facing engineers from Amec, more experienced and sceptical; a difficult group to convince. Suffice to say it worked; well the cementitious option that is.
It was time for a move north with a six month old child and other priorities raised their heads – such as being able to afford a house – joining another great design engineer, formerly of Anthony Hunt Associates: Stephen Morley, who was in partnership with Atelier One, headed by Neil Thomas. Stephen was a great inspiration; a dedicated engineer, who could scheme a stadium roof on a napkin in minutes. It was a somewhat hectic experience. No project was simple, adjusting to working for a small company and to Manchester. It was here that Hugh was to learn the importance of making decisions by cutting out complexity and concentrating on simple methods of analysis to prove the design. As Stephen would say: ‘ the right decisions can be made quickly with a questioning approach to testing a design’.Just as Stephen won a competition for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Stadium (in which he took no part) the company merged with Brian Moorehead Partnership; very much a local Manchester firm. It became Modus, subsequently to be bought by SKM of Australia. Hugh was project engineer for the south stand Chelsea Stadium at the time. A gruelling experience, but the design was varied and challenging – a suspended tension roof with steel tubes, concrete stand with steel upper tier, retail and hotel. With time pressing, he put together a single equation modelling the stiffness of core walls in order to avoid movement joints in the 140m long stand, simplifying the steel catenary by pinning the joints – an improvement in steel weight on the north stand – and struggled with the concept of the cantilevered steel tier assessing natural frequencies to limit dynamic movement.
The corporate world had limited interest; with mission statements and office politics contend with. What followed was a series of office start-ups in Manchester: Buro Happold, Woolgar Hunter, Anthony Hunt Associates -attended the retirement party for Tony Hunt – to go full circle when Anthony Hunt Associates was bought out by SKM….enough was enough.
Hugh joined two former colleagues Ian Scott and Wendy Hughes in their new venture Scott Hughes Design in Ancoats, Manchester, latterly to become a Director for the first time in my life. We started small, and built up in the ‘noughties’ boom, the ‘city living’ developments in Manchester. He developed a line in specialist stair design, glass, and SIPs (structurally insulated panels) with his own client base. Friendships developed with architectural practices such as OMI and MBLA in Manchester.
Along came recession number three in a busy career, the credit crunch of 2007, where the bankers were soon to learn that their exciting mathematical computer models to solve ‘life, the universe and the financial market’ to eliminate most risk, were hopelessly flawed.
Largely unsuited to the corporate world and he set up Hugh Morrison Associates – a sole trading company – and carried on with developing his expertise in SIPs, timber frame and special structures with a long term client Bisca. His clients have stayed loyal.
With an enforced rest when a left eye had a cataract removed he conceived the idea of the book; having been fortunate to have worked with some excellent engineers on numerous difficult projects. Hugh worked with Stephen Morley, Chris Wise, Tony Hunt, Peter Rice, Tony Stevens et al. His experiences in all sorts of materials: glass, steel, concrete, timber, SIPs and tension fabric and design methods must come to something: why not write a book and simplified design…expounding the virtues of the great and good in engineering. Not so much a textbook, as a compendium of design examples for the young; highlighting the fact that we do work with aesthetics, and that this is important.
Four years later, having drawing dozens of diagrams, and with a lot learned about just how difficult it is to proofread and modify text, and incorporate images, the book is at last on the road… it is of practical use and interest…and may even have the seal of approval of Stephen Morley – which is a delight indeed!