University of Leicester Engineering Building

Dr Bob Joyce

University of Leicester Engineering Building © Arup

I look back fondly on my time at Leicester University in the late 1970s.  My memories of the engineering building are profound.  Having never seen tall buildings before, the engineering block, being over 20 stories high, was a revelation to me.  I had great fun in the labs on the lower ground floor, which were so light due to the amount of glass.  I fondly remember sitting in the lecture theatre in my first lectures, so different to school.  I am slightly embarrassed that I spent most of my time in the back row!  The building had an amazing lift system called the Paternoster, which continuously went up and down the 22 stories with no doors – you simply walked on and walked off – and it looped around the top storey back down again.  Sadly I hear that for health and safety reasons it was replaced in recent years, but to be honest that was probably a very good call!

University of Leicester Engineering Building © University of Leicester

My tutor, Prof Maxwell, was a great inspiration to me.  I remember once he asked me to question something, then challenge it using the ‘Five Whys’, a Japanese route-cause understanding technique.  He was on the 21st floor, so I turned around and looked at his office window; I could see that it was made of strengthened glass, slid into oblong extruded sections built up from the 2nd floor to the top of the building.  I asked him what would happen if you broke the plane of glass?  He replied that it would not break. I countered that all glass can break, and after a detailed discussion we both agreed that if the glass really had to be replaced it would be a really big job!! (and of course this is what happened in 2017!).

University of Leicester engineering building stamp design © Royal Mail Group Limited by Nick Jenkins
University of Leicester Engineering Building © Arup
University of Leicester Engineering Building © Arup
University of Leicester Engineering Building © University of Leicester

I lived in Clare Hall, Lincoln Street behind the railway station and Freemans Common, so on my daily walk to lectures I could see the engineering tower from the west, east and south approaches.  It was this building that inspired me to become an engineer….to push boundaries, to challenge the norm, and create sustainable and lasting technical solutions to benefit mankind and the planet we share, for which I will be forever grateful.

“I was overwhelmed by a shock of breathless delight at the originality and beauty of the interior. It felt as if I had been instantly transported far into the future.”

Bernard Levin

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