Over the past 30 years, Robert A. Halvorson has engineered tall and long-span buildings all over the world and ENR Midwest is proud to honor him with its 2020 Legacy Award.
Halvorson's interest in building structures began with a summer job as a carpenter’s helper and continued through his formal studies at Cornell and Stanford in the mid '70s. Halvorson then began an illustrious career at Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM), serving in their Chicago, Houston, New York and London offices. In 1981 he was part of the forensic engineering team that studied the Hyatt Regency Kansas City’s walkway collapse.
In 1983 his leadership and creativity earned him the distinction of becoming the venerable firm's youngest partner ever at 31. In 1996, Halvorson left SOM and founded Halvorson and Partners. His firm further cemented his skyscraper design legacy and expanded the stable of young engineers that had the distinction of working for Bob Halvorson.
In 2015 WSP acquired Halvorson and Partners and he has been an instrumental member of WSP’s leadership since, leading its global building structures practice while continuing to deliver structural engineering designs that, as one client recently put it when describing China's Hanking Center, "make magic." Halvorson entered semi-retirement earlier this year but still assists WSP on special projects.
Some of Halvorson’s many project achievements include :
- Torre Cespa, Madrid: the first of many buildings where Bob collaborated with Lord Norman Foster, this 820-ft-high office tower uses two external reinforced concrete cored to provide lateral and vertical support for the entire tower. The design solution evolved from an iterative architectural and structural design process with the goal to create valuable, unobstructed views and a dramatic, column-free ground floor lobby.
- Wells Fargo Plaza, Houston (formerly Allied Bank Plaza): early in his career, Halvorson rode out Hurricane Alicia atop this 71-story office structure to confirm whether the assumptions, analyses and wind tunnel predictions made for behavior under wind loading were accurate. What better way to monitor the performance than in-person during a Category Three hurricane? The measurements taken that night still confirm, today, the practice of wind and high-rise engineering.
- World Trade Center, Abu Dhabi: named the Best Tall Building in the Middle East and Africa by the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in 2015, the 1,2503-ft-high tower pushed the boundaries for slender tower design with a 13:1 height-to-width ratio – and did so without the dampers that such slender towers usually require.
Halvorson has been recognized as a Fellow of both the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) in the United Kingdom. In 2016, IStructE further honored Halvorson with the award of their Gold Medal, elevating him to an elite club of structural engineering greats that includes Ove Arup, Santiago Calatrava and Edmund Happold. We are glad to add ENR Midwest's Legacy Award to Halvorson's long list of achievements! A full story on Bob's many achievements will be in our January issue.