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Traces of peter rice

Queen’s Celebrates Engineering Icon


New exhibition and workshops series showcases career of Peter Rice

The Dundalk-born engineer who played a key role in designing the famous ‘shells’ of the Sydney Opera House is being celebrated at Queen’s University Belfast.

Peter Rice, a Queen’s civil engineering graduate, is regarded as one of Ireland’s most distinguished structural engineers. To mark his career, the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering at Queen’s, along with Arup (the global consultancy of which Peter was a Director) is hosting the Traces of Peter Rice exhibition at the Naughton Gallery at Queen’s from Thursday February 28 until March 28.

The exhibition showcases Rice’s work and explores design stories from his career, including his work on the world famous Pompidou Centre in France, the Full Moon Theatre - an amphitheatre which is lit entirely by the moon - and the Menil Gallery in Texas. The exhibition is supported by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Ireland’s Department of Arts Heritage and Gaeltacht, the Institution of Structural Engineers and Royal Society of Ulster Architects.

Alongside the exhibition, a series of workshops for secondary school pupils will explore engineering and imagination in the built environment, including an attempt to build a life-size bridge using only Meccano. 

Professor Michael McGarry, from Queen’s School of Planning Architecture and Civil Engineering helped bring the exhibition to the University. He said: “Peter Rice was arguably the most significant structural engineer of his generation. Throughout the 1980s his firm were the structural engineers for the most important buildings of that decade. Peter died prematurely in 1992, and we at Queen’s are extremely proud to host this exhibition and surrounding programme of events in order to mark the achievement of one of our most distinguished civil engineering graduates.

'This is the first opportunity to bring Peter Rice's work to Belfast and celebrate his talent in the place where his remarkable career began. The international dimension to his work is obvious, and his story is a fine example of how a Queen’s degree can open doors worldwide. We hope this exhibition will inspire a new generation of engineers, architects and planners who will go on to make their mark on the built environment in Northern Ireland and around the world.' 

Mr Tristram Carfrae, Global Buildings Practice Chair, Arup said: 'Peter Rice had a profound effect on me. He taught me to always question the status quo; to consider using new materials; to use technology to explore ideas; and, most importantly, that the purpose of our designs is to improve other people’s lives.'

Culture Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín said: 'I am delighted my Department is able to support the Queens exhibition of Peter Rice’s work. I know there are also a series of workshops, discussions and practical exercises, around the exhibition, planned for local school children. Projects such as these are helping to inspire creative thinking and the next generation of scientists and engineers. It is also vital we use these opportunities to raise the expectations of children and young people from deprived areas, giving them the skills and the knowledge to transform their lives and those of their communities.' 

Jimmy Deenihan TD, Ireland’s Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, said: 'I am pleased that my Department has been able to provide some part financial support for this exhibition, through the Government Policy on Architecture implementation programme. Famous the world over for his work on renowned buildings such as the Sydney Opera House, the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Pyramide Inversée of the Louvre, Peter Rice was once described as 'the James Joyce of structural engineering'. It was his daring and deep understanding of materials and structure that made such innovative buildings possible. I am delighted that his work is being highlighted to a wider audience through this wonderful exhibition.'

The exhibition is taking place from February 28 until March 28 in The Naughton Gallery at Queen’s University Belfast. Admission is free and further information on the ‘Traces of Peter Rice’ is available online.

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