Identity in Design: Roma Agrawal on bringing more women into structural engineering

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DnA is exploring stories about identity -- as in, how much does it matter to design?

To what extent are designed objects and buildings shaped by the values and cultural heritage of their designers?

One person who thinks a lot about this is Roma Agrawal.

She is an Indian-born, London based engineer who is an associate director at the UK office of the huge design and engineering company AECOM.

She’s worked on bridges, sculptures, homes and highrises. When she was just 23 she began working on the structure for The Shard in London, designed by Renzo Piano. It’s the tallest building in western Europe.

But she also appears on TV programs and documentaries, promoting diversity among engineers.

Now she’s written a book called “Built: The Hidden Stories Behind our Structures.”

She says, “we spend all our time in buildings, near buildings, below in tunnels, crossing bridges, but most of us don't know a huge deal about them,” and she wrote the book to illuminate engineering as well as its heroes -- and heroines.

She tells DnA about the woman behind the Brooklyn Bridge, about working on Western Europe’s tallest tower (while feeling anxiety about heights); and why our environment will change if there is a more diverse group of designers.

Roma Agrawal, from her Instagram page. Photo courtesy of Roma Agrawal.