Michel Virloguex

Dr. Michel Virlogeux (born 1946, La Flèche, Sarthe, Pays de la Loire) is a French structural engineer and bridge specialist. Michel Virlogeux, was born in 1946, graduated at the 'Ecole Polytechnique' in 1967 and at the 'Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées' in 1970. From 1970 to 1973 he served in Tunisia on road projects and at the same time gained his Dr Engineer at the 'Pierre et Marie Curie University' (Paris VI). In January 1974 he joined the Bridge Department of SETRA, the technical service of the French Highway Administration. In 1980 he became Head of the Large Concrete Bridge Division, and in 1987 of the large Bridge Division, Steel and Concrete. During twenty years he designed more than 100 bridges, including the 'Normandy Bridge' which held the world record for four years. In 1995 he left the French Administration and settled as independent consulting engineer; his major achievements include his participation to the construction of the 'Second Tagus Crossing' in Lisbon and the design of the 'Millau Viaduct' in France, the tallest bridge in the world with piers taller than the Eiffel Tower. Several of his bridges received architectural awards.
Michel Virlogeux played an important part in the development of external prestressing and of composite and cable-stayed bridges, and these last years he devotes a great energy to promote the role of engineers as designers and creators.

His Inspiration:
Virlogeux's prescriptions for a successful bridge design are that it be:
 

  1. structurally efficient, and sometimes innovative
  2. expressive of the state-of-the art in construction methods
  3. built with perfection and elegance as a goal
  4. built by the most eminent builders
  5. in agreement with its surroundings.


These are the parameters which form inspirational basis for or his design and structural considerations.
His major contributions leading to very significant progress in the field of civil engineering, in particular through the development of external prestressing, landmark cable-stayed bridges and composite structures" Michel Virlogeux took an important part in the development of external prestressing and of composite and cable-stayed bridges, and these last years he devotes a great energy to promote the role of engineers as designers and creators.

His Philosophy:
He strongly advocates a philosophy, that structures should be efficient and never dishonest. Virlogeux does not think engineers should be slaves to economy; there is nonetheless a moral imperative to avoid structural inefficiency. He thinks, too much searching for originality, aiming at producing a surprise more than trying to develop a pure structural design which is not, by essence, in their real competence, is what forms the basis for failure. He strongly thinks so, that for a design to be cohesive and strong, it should be strong structurally and follow natural force-lines, the design then follows suit.

His Legacy:

His quotes to remember:
Writing about Marc Mimram's Solférino Footbridge (pictured right, image courtesy of Etienne Cazin on flickr), he comments that:
"fantasy governed the detailed design, a fantasy which had not been tempered by the rationality of a serious engineer; the arches, for an example, are made of inclined I-shaped beams with totally irrational details. There is no web - for transparency - just a series of diaphragms, and the members are transversely curved, [which] obliged these beams [to be] made from cast steel elements ... back to the 19th Century and to enormous costs."

"We take an example from the World Exhibition in Sevilla to evidence such a difference, with the two major bridges built on this occasion: the Alamillo Bridge, which can be considered an attractive sculpture, but which is a total nonsense structurally, and the Barqueta Bridge [image courtesy of Guillermo Vale on flickr] designed by Juan Jose Arenas, a real structure which shows the natural flow of forces, and which is elegant and efficient in the same time."

"These monstrous errors must be systematically denounced to avoid their repetition, and to convince that excellence in bridge design can only come from a rational structural organization. Unfortunately, even some good architects who used to work efficiently with engineers are going in the wrong direction when they are given the responsibility of design. What is wrong? - too much searching for originality, aiming at producing a surprise more than trying to develop a pure structural design which is not, by essence, in their real competence.

"Modesty must be considered again a quality!"