Why The Beauty Of Engineered Solutions Matters

Earlier this month I spent a delightful long weekend with my partner in Kent, England. We based ourselves at Dymchurch, a coastal village, from which we walked and cycled. One of its key features is the above sea wall, which is just the latest incarnation of defences which date back to Roman times. Completed in 2011 at a cost of £60m, the barrier protects around 2500 residences in the low-lying ground behind. As we strolled along it on the Friday evening, I wasn’t surprised to find that such an engineered safety feature was robust and effective. What I hadn’t expected was to be entranced by its beauty.

From the path topping the wall, the barrier curves elegantly away to the shingle peninsula of Dungeness. Observing it from the shore, the aesthetic symmetry was extremely pleasing. It seemed to be a safety feature which was not only prominent, but handsome and even a little proud of being so.

Abraham Goldberg, a professor at an American University, conducted a statistical analysis of happiness in several major cities worldwide. The usual markers of happiness are colloquially known as the “Big Seven”: wealth (especially compared to those around you), family relationships, career, friends, health, freedom, and personal values. However, Professor Goldberg found, perhaps surprisingly, that happiness is most easily attained by living and working in an aesthetically beautiful place. [1]

Furthermore, the abstract of a paper in a Psychological Journal highlights that ‘Numerous studies show that happy individuals are successful across multiple life domains, including marriage, friendship, income, work performance, and health.’ [2]

Finally, controlled workplace experiments have demonstrated that participants who were proud of their performance were more likely to persevere (twice as much, in fact) than those who were not. [3]

Lacing these 3, admittedly unconnected and tenuously related articles together, I choose to come to the conclusion that if your engineered working surroundings are prominent and elegant, this will make you happy, proud and effective in your responsibilities (not least of these being safety).
However, my perception is that, with notable exceptions, there is scant evidence of bold and beautiful images to our facilities. Scarcely, a visual acknowledgement of Process Safeguards. Barely, outside of questionable lauding of LTI milestones, a hint of safety success promotion. Have we become so sensitised to negative associations of incidents, that we prefer to wrap ourselves in Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak?
I believe there is another way. Let’s make Engineered Safety features handsome and prominent, such that we can become proud of them and bask happily in their aesthetic elegance. Let’s be visionaries like the owners of the PCK Raffinerie GmbH in Schwedt, Germany, who commissioned Virtual Sky in a new windowless control room. The 105 m2 illuminated ceiling which PCK developed together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO) in Stuttgart. It simulates the sky at any time of the day or night and thus ensures a pleasant working atmosphere. [4]


  1. The Beauty-Happiness Connection – Looking at lovely things—and people—can improve quality of life’. Cody C. Delistraty. The Atlantic Magazine – 15 August 2014.
  2. The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?’. Sonja Lyubomirsky – University of California, Riverside; Laura King – University of Missouri—Columbia; Ed Diener University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and The Gallup Organization. the American Psychological Association Bulletin – 2005, Vol. 131, No. 6, 803– 855.
  3. ‘The Scientific Benefits of Pride’. Eric Barker. The Week, 12 April 2017.
  4. Process Technology Online, 18 March 2019.