Leeds engineering students triumph at design challenge to create iconic landmark for London

A group of engineering students from University of Leeds have won a design challenge run by global professional services firm, WSP, to create an iconic building which would add a new dimension to London’s skyline.

Sixty five final year civil and structural engineering students took part in the competition, which was launched at the university by a team from WSP’s Leeds office last November.

Groups were asked to create a new 180m landmark residential scheme to fit in the dynamic skyline of London, inspired by the ambitious and striking tower blocks which punctuate the vistas of South American cities such as Sao Paulo or Buenos Aires.

WSP asked the students to develop both architectural and structural design concepts, giving them an insight into the challenges faced by engineers working in the industry.

Following the initial design stages five teams were chosen to visit WSP’s London head office to present their concepts to a judging panel made up of senior engineers from WSP and an architect from Foster & Partners.

The judges chose the ‘Verde Tower’ as the winning design – a striking double tower skyscraper connected by interlinking bridges – which was conceived by fourth year structural engineering students Thomas Alexander, David Palmer, Caroline Louise Bryce, James Matthew Lomas, Sam Thomas Ford and Hurry Lin.


Andrew Woodward, senior technical director at WSP and one of the judging panel said: “The Verde Tower represented the most complete engineering project, and the team have designed a building that is both visually striking, but also efficient and within budget.

“This was a fantastic opportunity for students to experience a realistic client/consultant relationship and respond to a brief against a real-time deadline. Not only was it an opportunity to utilise the practical skills they are learning, but the competition challenged the students to scale the heights of their creativity.”

The design competition is part of WSP’s drive to nurture the next generation of engineers. WSP in Leeds also offers a three year apprenticeship programme, working in partnership with Leeds College of Building.

To encourage younger students to consider a career in engineering, the company runs regular workshops and practical lessons with Morley Academy, as part of its ‘Launchpad’ school engagement programme.

Najwa Jawahar, from WSP’s Leeds office, said: “It is fantastic to see the passion and creativity from what will be the next cohort of engineers working in the industry.  We’ve really enjoyed working with the students over the last three months and there are already plans to repeat the challenge with the University of Leeds next year.”

Dr Konstantinos Tsavdaridis from School of Civil Engineering, University of Leeds, said: “All 12 groups have proposed challenging but realistic designs; the top five ones were outstanding, while students had to develop technical but also other skills which enabled them to justify every decision they have made.

“I am impressed by their professionalism throughout all stages of the project. It has been a hard working period for all of us but an excellent experience for the students as well as the academic team. I hope we have the opportunity to establish a firm relationship with WSP and repeat the competition with other exciting projects.” 

WSP, the structural engineer behind the Shard and New York’s Freedom Tower, is renowned for designing landmark high-rise buildings across the globe, and the Leeds team recently helped achieve planning permission for the 11-storey Central Square development in the city centre. 

WSP Leeds - University of Leeds Design competition winning team
University of Leeds Design competition winning team

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