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Mini-Millau Masters

Nov 07 2006 08:41
Michael Davis
A look back at the Constructionarium from the eyes of a Project Manager.
Dr Sunday Popo-Ola proclaims his confidence in the completed structure

?It?s a mini-version of the Millau Viaduct? said the brief, and we had but 5 days to build it. This was a first time Constructionarium Project, which had never been done before. The team were all suffering from severe sleep deprivation and caffeine overdoses, having just completed a rather intense four weeks of the 3rd year Design Project. God help us.

Luckily, the Blue Team had a few of things in their favour: two guys from Cyprus who had been on construction sites since they got their first, toddler sized hard hat, and who knew how to build just about anything; a Norwegian genius who was able to figure out how to winch the decks out across the 20m chasm it was to span on D-Day; an Englishman whose Machiavellian handling of finance would make even made Rupert Murdoch seem like a bit of a wimp; a team who in general miraculously managed to find the type of strength and determination that would make Hercules sit down and weep from shame; and a crew of really amazing workers on site who could handle a digger so diligently that they could have caressed new born babies.

Everyday brought with it a new crisis: the launch pads had been put in the wrong place in the design, surveying had gone haywire and the pier columns were 10cm out, there were bolts missing for the decks, etc. But after the second day the pier columns were upright and had been masterfully smoothed down by Pan and Petros (the Cypriot guys), meaning that the viaduct was beginning to take form.

By the end of Day Three the decks for the Viaduct were coming together. Day Four saw the launch system get set in place and the gear to winch the bridge out arrive.

D-Day came round ? time to launch the viaduct, and to add to the excitement, HRH Prince Phillip was going to have a wander around site, coming to see the Millau Project first. Having been told that HRH was somewhat deaf, the Project Manager took it upon himself to bellow out in a loud, clear voice the more interesting details of the site for 5 minutes. This was before he heard Professor Chris Wise asking HRH ?What he thought of it all?, in a soft, gentle voice. Whoops.

The moment of truth arrived, the two ends of the decks met, the two halves became one. It looked stunning. Pats on the back for everyone and drinks while everyone went to see the other sites.

In all, there could be no better way to end the year than by rounding it off with the Constructionarium. Having pushed pens and crunched calculus equations for the past three years at Imperial, it was a refreshing change to puts one?s mind into making a dream become a reality. I would recommend the experience to anyone - long may the Constructionarium live.

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