Bridge commemorates first Engineers Australia, Canberra President

Monday, 21 November 2016

Butters Bridge, named after eminent engineer Sir John Butters and stretching over the lower Molonglo, was officially opened at a recent dedication ceremony, with a celebratory afternoon tea hosted by Engineers Australia’s, Canberra office and attended by Butters’ descendants held after the ceremony.

Sir John Butters (1885-1969), who proposed the formation of Engineers Australia, Canberra, was appointed to a number of key leadership posts during his career, including as Engineers Australia, Canberra's first provisional President, Engineers Australia National President and Chair of the Federal Capital Commission (FCC).

Engineers Australia, Canberra President Alan Thompson FIEAust CPEng EngExec said that the bridge is a fitting homage to a man who changed Canberra’s landscape and brought the city into the modern world.

"When he arrived in Canberra, it was a dusty and disorganised small settlement, but in five dynamic years as leader of the Federal Capital Commission, Butters turned Canberra into a small modern city,” Mr Thompson said.

“He completed many iconic buildings, including Provisional Parliament House, and much of the underpinning infrastructure, including water and sewerage systems.

“Butters was renowned in Canberra for his drive and vision and the new Butters Bridge is a fitting tribute to a great engineer and leader.”

Sir John Butters’ grandchildren and great-grandchildren attended the bridge dedication near Coppins Crossing Road and the afternoon tea formalities, hosted by Engineers Australia, Canberra on Friday 30 September 2016.

Butters’ granddaughter Liz Taylor said that she was proud of both the bridge and her grandfather.

“I am really pleased my grandfather has been recognised for the work he did and for being a forward thinker,” Mrs Taylor said.

“The whole day was enjoyable and getting to meet the people behind the scenes was a bonus.”

The 242-metre-long Butters Bridge, designed by Grimshaw Architects, is one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the Southern Hemisphere and bears a discreet 600 millimetre sewerage pipe.

As a result of Butters’ initiative, Engineers Australia became the first national body to hold its annual conference in Canberra in 1928.

Mr Thompson, who was the bridge dedication’s Master of Ceremonies, said that Butters’ contribution to engineering extended beyond Canberra’s confines.

"Before Butters arrived in Canberra, he already had a wonderful track record developing the Tasmanian hydro-electric system, and contributing to similar schemes in New Zealand,” he said.

“After Butters completed his time in Canberra, he and his family moved to Sydney, and for the next forty years Butters was the Director of numerous major companies, many of which had a technology focus.”

“His engineering knowledge was invaluable to many of these roles, including for the Board of General Motors Holden, which launched the first Australian-made car.”

Main image: Sir John Butters Bridge, courtesy of the ACT Government.

Thumbnail image: Sir John Butters’ family and bridge dedication guests with a bust of Butters in the Sir John Butters Auditorium, Engineering House.