This article was submitted by Francis Nadaraju, a PhD student studying Chemical Engineering.


My journey through life has included working as an engineer in industry prior to joining UON as a PhD student. During this period, I was stationed at a process plant that manufactured vanadium (the chemical that’s added to steel to make it stronger, or to paint to make it bright yellow).

I also worked in mining. A mine or production plant is never a sight for sore eyes because it’s always about the “bottom-line” so the design process is mainly driven by space constraints and technical feasibility. You can clearly see this if you drive through Stockton in Newcastle.

Then there are architects; people who I think could be more creative than engineers. They seem to have all the fun when it comes to design work. Consider the design of houses for example. Back home in South Africa there is a magazine program on television called Top Billing, which gives us “mere mortals” a taste of the hip-and-happening and fabulous lifestyles of celebrities.

Each week the show is set in a different exotic location.These include beautiful mansions in the heart of Cape Town, or eclectic homes near the Kruger National Park that allow one to experience the wonders of nature and local wildlife from the comfort of a balcony. Don’t forget that these homes make maximum use of natural light, with flowing waters within the landscaped gardens to provide calming effects to help one reach a state of Zen.


Hout Bay home Maison Noir featured on Top Billing (South Africa) [1]


So, what have Engineers contributed to the world? It seems apparent that the “creative-gene” is lacking. And that made me reflect on whether engineers are creative or not. Yes, to a certain extent engineers are creative in that a plant design is first optimised technically, financially and spatially before proceeding to the construction phase. But I want my designs to feature on Top Billing! Well, as a side-note, it would be interesting getting past the red-tape of safety requirements to host the show at a mine.

But then I considered engineering feats around the world. The obvious ones like the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building sprang to mind; then I remembered the Petronas Towers in Malaysia. The height of the building reaches just over 450 m above ground level and embodies a unique and innovative design.  However, the tallest skyscraper in the world currently is the Burj Khalifa located in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. These megastructures were designed by… architects; in conjunction with civil and structural engineers.


Burj Khalifa (Dubai, UAE) [2]


So now I am faced with a real dilemma: are engineers creative; or do they just play supporting roles to architects, the ones with the grand ideas? But hang on… is it necessary for engineers to be creative? Sure, it would be great for us engineers to say, “We came up with the exciting new design”. Come to think of it, does it really matter who comes up with the creative concept? What does matter (I think) is the final product, the amazing feat of engineering or architecture.

What should also be considered is that the process of progressing from design to construction involves the collaboration of strengths from a team of experts, both architects and engineers. Furthermore, one does not need to possess all the necessary skills to get the job done, but rather teamwork can get the project completed via a multitude of abilities and perspectives.

In all honesty I’m a little disappointed to think that architects are indeed the creative ones.  But it’s okay… what does matter is that both engineers and architects can combine their respective skills of creativity and practicality to produce engineering and architectural marvels for all posterity.


[1] Source:

[2] Source:


Feel like flexing your creative muscles? Come along to Draw Card, a creative workshop for postgraduate students. The events will be held on the 5th and 7th September 2017 as part of UON’s Create 2308 festival.

Whether you’re in STEM, Health or Business, we believe creative thinking is for everyone, not just artists! This beginner’s drawing workshop will help flex your minds in way you’re perhaps not used to. Learning “out of the box” thinking, and finding new ways of looking at a problem can help you in your regular studies.

All materials will be provided, and your finished masterpieces will be displayed in a one-off exhibition at the end of the week.

No prior experience necessary, just bring your enthusiasm. We can’t turn you into Da Vinci in two hours, but we can guarantee a whole lot of fun!

Places are limited so register now to secure your spot.

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