The London-educated pioneer of ‘fusion engineering’ - which allows ground-breaking architecture across the globe to become building reality – has become the first in his field to win an internationally renowned design award.
Dr Hossein Rezai, who helps architects turn their abstract visions into reality, was named Designer of the Year in the coveted PDA awards in Singapore.
The award can be given to any excellent practitioner in a range of design fields, including architecture, fashion, advertising design and visual communications. It is the first time a structural engineer has received it in its 11-year history.
Singapore is acknowledged as Asia’s design hub and the PDA award has major significance across the whole of the continent.
Dr Rezai, 60, who studied for his PhD in structural engineering at the University of Westminster and worked as an associate at London engineering consultancy Trigram Partnership, is the founder of international design engineering consultancy Web Structures, which has offices in Singapore, London, Malaysia and China.
Today Web Structures is an internationally-acclaimed civil, structural and geotechnical engineering consultancy delivering high quality solutions across the globe.
The concept of ‘Fusion Engineering’ he has pioneered redefines engineering excellence through innovation and design, allowing ground-breaking architecture to become building reality.
It fuses design sensitivity with cost consciousness - with the traditional separation between architectural design aesthetics and structures erased in a seamless harmony of design intent.
Web Structures has worked in partnership with leading international architects including Foster and Partners, Rogers, Stirk, Harbour + Partners, UN Studio and Kohn Pederson Fox (KPF) to create iconic buildings across the world.
Dr Rezai and his practice are brought in by architects at the start of the design process to propose new ways of building things and become a vital part of the project team.
The Institution of Structural Engineers in London is among the bodies who have congratulated Dr Rezai, who was also a member of the master jury for the coveted Aga Khan Award for Architecture last year, on his prestigious award. He has been a member of the UK professional body for 25 years.
In its citation, the jury for the award said: “He brings a creative solution to each project - improving how it can be built, while not losing sight of the greater whole.
”Explaining his Fusion Engineering approach Dr Rezai says: “The traditional approach is that the developer or architect sets out a problem and everyone else has to solve it. It becomes a ‘them’ and ‘us’ situation.
“We want to get into their minds and find out what they want to do. Sometimes, they may not know the possibilities that exist.”
He adds: “Engineering is an integral part of any design process. Without engineering, there will be no design.
“Innovation requires an intention to do new things or to do old things in new ways. That creates a sense of discomfort, what I call ‘design anxiety’.
“If you have that anxiety, then you are in a creative sphere. If you’re walking around with no anxiety, then you’re not in the sphere.
”Dr Rezai says creativity and good design does not need to be costly. “With our structural designs, we think there's no reason why we should use any more material than is absolutely necessary.
“You won't gain anything by spending more or using more material when it comes to structure. As such, we minimise the carbon footprint of our structure by minimising the usage of material.
”Web Structures’ work across the globe includes the dramatic Deya in the Indian city of Kolkata – a dramatic ‘sculpture in the sky’.
Deya – which means cloud in Bengali – connects the two towers that make up Atmosphere – a luxury £75 million high-rise apartment project that is the tallest in the growing city and a ground-breaking first for India.
Sitting 100 metres high, Deya also spans 100 metres. With four levels, the highest being the party deck, it will serve as a community space for a very special neighbourhood in the sky.
The practice, which has worked in more than 26 countries, also helped create the striking bridge which spans the three 50-storey towers of the Sir Norman Foster-designed Troika in Kuala Lumpur.
For the 21-storey Tokio Marine Centre in Singapore Dr Rezai collaborated with leading architecture firm CSYA to come up with a design which would “address architectural and structural design intents”. The building sports a decorative latticed facade that supports the structure.
His Web Structures team developed a new, innovative inter-locking system to create cantilevered shear walls staggered across the height of the tower to produce the distinctive folding and interlocking look designed by UN Studio for its exclusive 36-storey Ardmore Residence in the heart of Singapore.
The engineer’s other projects in Singapore include Mediacorp's new 12-storey, 800,000sqft headquarters.
That same innovative approach was used to create a stunning ‘home without gridlines’ – again fusing cutting-edge architectural design and engineering techniques to create one of Asia’s most outstanding houses.
The distinctive home in Whitehouse Park, Singapore, was designed by Arc Studios. The striking residence, perched over three levels, comprises a series of “pods” sitting with their backs towards the heart of the house. Each “pod” houses one major function of the home: the kitchen and services “pod” and the communal areas.
The practice’s current projects include two high-specification residential developments in Taipei with RSH+P, and ongoing projects with Foster and Partners in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong.