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Karl Micallef

Karl Micallef

associate principal structural engineer, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (Europe) LLP


Design, Structural, Construction


United Kingdom
My highlights

Shaping the skyline of cities like London, Birmingham, Gothenburg and Geneva

Sharing knowledge with the next generation at the University of East London

Becoming a Fellow of the ICE

A day in my life

Unless working from home or travelling to some project site, I commute to London and start catching up on emails on the train.

At the office, I normally join design team meetings or workshops with clients and other designers – architects, other engineers – to move one step further in the design process.

Sometimes I’m writing a report or reviewing drawings and, depending on what projects I’m working on, I might be doing some quick hand calculations or detailed analysis models.

I tend to do a lot of sketches to share and communicate ideas.

But not a day passes without doing something in a spreadsheet! I’m an engineer after all.

Getting recognition from a prestigious organisation such as the ICE for each stage of my career has helped me aim higher and progress further in my mission as an engineer.

Which individual project or person inspired you to become a civil engineer?

The 16th century military engineer who was responsible for executing the design and construction of the fortifications and many buildings in Valletta, the capital city of my home country, Malta.

His name was Gerolamo Cassar.

I vividly remember being asked as a very young child what I wanted to do when I grew up, and replying: “I want to be just like Gerolamo Cassar”.

We asked Karl…

I would recommend a career in civil engineering because…

It literally shapes the world around us, whether it's at home, the workplace and everything else in between.

Complete this phrase: I’m a civil engineer, but I’m also…

A husband, a proud dad, a pianist and a bit of a painter.

What’s the biggest/most complex thing you’ve made out of Lego? How long did it take you?

Unlike most civil engineers, I haven't done much Lego, but I did recently complete a 1:400 scale model of the RMS Titanic.

That took a number of months, as I could only work on it at the weekends and when my two-year-old daughter wasn't too willing to 'help'.

What about being a civil engineer gets you out of bed each morning?

Knowing that what I’m designing and eventually constructing will have an impact on someone’s life.

I want to make sure that said impact is only a positive one, whether it’s choosing the right location for a column not to be in the way or minimising the use of materials to have less carbon emissions and save the planet.

What’s one great thing that you love about civil engineering that you didn’t know until you started working in the industry?

Engineering is only a small part of what we do.

Which civil engineering project (past or present) do you wish you’d worked on?

The Sears Tower (now called Willis Tower) in Chicago, USA.

Name one civil engineering myth you’d like to bust.

That all civil engineers do is calculations and build 'ugly' stuff.

What motivated you to become professionally qualified? 

I hope that by being a member of the ICE, I get the opportunity to inspire budding engineers through sharing knowledge and experiences.

What does being professionally qualified with the ICE mean for your career?  

My recent elevation to Fellow of the ICE has certainly been a big milestone in my career. It's an honour and privilege for me personally and for my peers.

What’s the best thing about being professionally qualified with the ICE? 

It's been an exciting journey which started in 2001, going from student to graduate to Chartered Engineer and now a Fellow of the ICE!

How did the ICE and your employer support you to become professionally qualified? 

I've received continuous support from my peers and managers, no least in the form of a sponsor.

It's not simply a personal achievement but also puts the firm at large in a better position by having qualified members of staff.

The gift I received after becoming a Fellow – a lovely picnic hamper basket full of goodies – was an added bonus.

What do you value most about being an ICE member? 

It's humbling to be part of a relatively small group of engineers who are Fellows of the ICE.

How has being a member helped your career? 

Getting recognition from a prestigious organisation such as the ICE for each stage of my career has helped me aim higher and progress further in my mission as an engineer.

Anything else?

I like travelling (to visit my favourite landmark buildings, no less) and photography and sketching, as well as enjoying (mainly consuming) food and music (I have been playing the piano since 1990).

Image credit: Karl Micallef

Major projects

Maggie’s Centre Manchester, Foster+Partners

Image credit: Karl Micallef

Major projects

United Nations Offices at Geneva, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (Europe) LLP

Image credit: Karl Micallef

Major projects

Karlatornet in Gothenburg, the tallest building in Scandinavia.

Image credit: Karl Micallef

Major projects

One Thames City at Nine Elms in London.

Karl's career path

For a long time, my career has been working in industry intertwined with academic spells to do my MSc and PhD.

An interest in academia and research keeps me in touch with universities and involved in different research efforts.

I believe an engineer doesn’t need to be siloed in being just an academic or just a practitioner, but rather, each aspect feeds to and from the other.