Skirting over the tops of the clouds that settle in the valley below, the Millau Viaduct is one of the most breath taking and recognisable bridges in the world. The bridge, which spans the valley of the River Tarn near Millau in the South of France, is the tallest in the world, with one of its masts stretching 343 metres above its foundations.
The engineer behind the bridge, Dr. Michel Virlogeux, met Keshini Navaratnam, Director of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, to discuss the inspirations and challenges behind creating such a feat of civil engineering.
A structural engineer by trade, Virlogeux has made his name as a specialist in bridge design; achieving his doctorate at the Pierre et Marie Curie University in 1973, he went on to join the bridge department of SETRA, the technical service of the French Highway Administration. Over the following 20 years, Virlogeux designed more than 100 bridges, many of which held various records, and have resulted in a number of awards.
Notable examples of his work include the construction of the Pont de Normandie, a cable-stayed bridge that spans the River Seine, and was once the longest of its kind in the world; the consultation of the Vasco de Gama Bridge on the River Tagus in Portugal; and of course the design of the Millau Viaduct in France.
Having played an instrumental role in the development of many iconic, cable-stayed bridges over the past forty years, Virlogeux now devotes much of his time to promoting the role of engineers as designers and creators, as well as problem solvers.
In recognition of his contributions to structural engineering, Michel has been awarded several international awards, including the inaugural Fritz Leonhardt Prize in 1999, the Gold Medal of the Institution of Structural Engineers, and the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABSE) Award of Merit in Structural Engineering. In 2012, Virlogeux was elected as an International Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.