Eiffel Over

A regular digest of matters engineering, creativity and practical philosophy from your host, Oliver Broadbent.
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Eiffel Over




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May 30, 2020

This episode is about seven themes all related in some way to climate and creativity that keep coming to mind when I'm doing the watering, which is rather a lot at the moment:

  • What can we learn from the Apollo missions?
  • Harnessing the subconscious as a creative tool
  • The wisdom of the allotment
  • The end of sustainability
  • Asking difficult questions
  • Not seeking permission to sound the alarm
  • Digital models of deckchairs on the Titanic
Apr 30, 2020

30 minutes of uninterrupted dawn chorus Hazel Hill Wood, recorded at the end of March. Hazel Hill is woodland nature reserve and education centre helping frontline staff develop resilience and wellbeing through connection with nature. While people are prevented from visiting the woods during lockdown, the team are working on ways to bring the wood to them during lockdown. Listening suggestions:

  • Early in the morning
  • Over breakfast
  • In the background while you work
  • To clear your mind at the end of work
  • Late at night as you drift off to sleep



Mar 12, 2020

Tabitha Pope is an architect and lecturer, with a specialism temporary structures and participatory archiecture and a passion for work that sits at the boundary of art and architecture. In this episode, produced in support of International Women’s Day, my colleague Lucy Barber interview Tabatha about:

  • What is participatory design and what benefits does it offer us in the climate emergency.
  • Challenging power in order to make architecture a more inclusive space for all under-represented groups, not just women.
  • How her practice of carpentry allows her to intervene in the design process in a different way.
  • Establishing a nature connection to help designers and citizens alike tackle the biodiversity crisis.
  • Stepping into a space of vulnerability in design in order to do things differently.
  • Creating spaces for joy and encounter to tackle loneliness and build resilience in communities.

...And lots more. Enjoy!

Feb 13, 2020

Bengt is a consultant and 're-designer', working in sustainability and circular design in the built environment. This year we are working together to create training in response to the climate emergency. In this interview I ask Bengt about his big question: what single thing can you do to save a million tonnes of carbon. Exploring this question we get into:

  • High-level strategies for accounting for carbon that help avoid getting stuck in the detail.
  • Using culture-change models to guide organisations as they respond to declaring a climate emergency.
  • Thinking frameworks that help consultants engage with the businesses they are supporting.
  • Circular design and the GLA's London plan
Jan 23, 2020

In this episode we flip the format: Alexie Sommer, Independent Design and Communication Director and collaborator on many of my projects interviews me about why I set up Eiffel Over and Constructivist Ltd, and what our plans are for 2020. We get into:

  • Techniques for teaching creativity
  • Our programme of training support people tackling the climate emergency
  • And what engineers might learn from clowns.
Jul 30, 2019

Sophie is an unusual mix of campaigner, practising designer and Chartered Waste Manager. She’s been working in the fields of sustainable design, behaviour change and material process for nearly 20 years. I invited Sophie on to the show to talk about waste and circular design. In our conversation we get into:

  • The engineering of linear and circular products, material selection, recycling houses and oil rigs.
  • The creative strategies for circular designers, and in particular the idea that waste is a design flaw.
  • And the practical philosophy of someone who has spent so long think about waste.
Jun 21, 2019

An engineering detour is something engineers do when they go out of their way, usually on holiday, to go and check out a piece of engineering infrastructure. In this episode I take an engineering detour to the mighty Forth Bridge. Along the way we get into

  • the engineering of the structure,
  • how taking detours can build our creative skills,
  • and on a philosophical note I weigh up facts and figures versus experiential knowledge.

Join me for the ride!

Jan 18, 2018

Don’t try to build a skyscraper yourself without listening to this first: a step-by-step guide on how to build a skyscraper with structural engineer Roma Agrawal, author of 'Built, the Hidden Stories Behind our Structures’. We get into the engineering, creativity and philosophy of sky scrapers and their designers.

Jan 4, 2018

I recorded this episode last summer with my colleague, graphic designer Jack Bardwell just before he left to puruse new adventures in interior architecture. It has been a pleasure therefore to listen his voice in the edit, and to hear the many fascinating things he has to say about his creative process, what he has learnt from working with engineers, and, most intriguingly, the spine-tingling effect other people's creativity can have on him.

I've got a feeling this going to be one of those episodes I keep coming back to when I need angles for looking at the world. Enjoy!

Nov 27, 2017

Journalist and author J-P Flintoff is this person who inspired me to start this podcast. He talks passionately about how to get people started on their creative projects and the positive impact their creativity has on the world. This interview gets very meta: a podcast about the creative process of podcasting. We get into all sorts of great techniques for creative projects, including:

  • Improv games
  • Valuing what you are good at
  • Not losing track of what is working well already
  • The importance of getting started
  • Not worrying about whether it is going to be good.
  • Shared space in the creaive process
  • Why we need to keep noticing

But beyond any particular tactic, it is J-P's warmth and encouragement that I find so inspiring. I hope it inspires you too.

Nov 24, 2017

I can’t think of metropolitan landscape that offers more varied and exciting opportunities for designing transport infrastructure than San Francisco, with its steep hills, its bay, its rapidly changing economy and its tantalisingly separated land masses. In this episode I catch up San Francisco-based transport engineer and old friend Andrew Kosinski and we geek out on transport-related talking points including:

  • Bridgoff: Bay vs. Golden Gate
  • Tearing down freeways
  • Bringing cycling into San Francisco
  • Is driving a right and it is a freedom?
  • The phenomenon of ‘parklets'
  • Tunnelling through ships
  • Building towers on weak and shifting sands
  • The creative bubble of silicon valley and the unintended consequences
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Using firms like Uber to replace under-productive bus routes
  • Becoming passive consumers of cities
May 12, 2017

Ditching google maps + riding the bart + cycling downtown + Golden Gate Bridge + big trains + hidden cognitive demand of team work and collaboration + measuring student brave waves + what is reality + the latest from Paolo Alto

Apr 24, 2017

Song writer and piano player Ellie Westgarth-Flynn and I talk creative musical strategies, instruments as extensions of our bodies, the tension between technical mastery and creativity and the importance of audience feedback. We also have a jam.

Show notes and more details available from the blog:

Apr 3, 2017

In this episode I attempt a sonic recreation of a part of the London Underground that never got built, a stretch of the Northern Line that would have run from Moorgate to Alexandra Palace. En route I reflect on the transport infrastructure shapes our experience of the city and the difference between what engineers plan and what actually gets built.

Mar 2, 2017

Photographer and photojournalist Nick Cobbing talks about photographing the Arctic, what happens to photographic equipment at minus 38 degrees, using drones to take photos, the role of the audience in the creative process, being reduced to tears by the beauty of the planet, the best places to swing dance north of the Arctic, life hacks for creative people working on their own and whether penguins tango or waltz.

Feb 12, 2017

Ever since I saw my first one zoom past as a boy I’ve loved TGVs. In January I travelled from one side of France to the other and back by high-speed train to get to a conference, and used the chance to try to capture some of what I love about fast trains in France. It’s a mash up of travel diary, interviews and engineering history, all stitched together with familiar SNCF noises. Close your eyes and bon voyage...

Jan 25, 2017

Andrew is a filmmaker specialising in the built environment. Andrew seems to have interviewed or met almost all of my engineering design heroes (except Eiffel), and so I was equally delighted and nervous when he agreed to let me interview him! In this podcast we explore one of Andrew’s passions, the identification and celebration of engineering culture. Along the way way we get in to some great stories about designers, what they design and how they do it.