leslie e keeley

Leslie E. Robertson

Leslie E. Robertson (born 1928) was the chief engineer in charge of design of the World Trade Center in New York, which was destroyed in the September 11, 2001 attacks. He has been structural engineer on numerous other projects, including the Shanghai World Financial Center and the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong. He received the IStructE Gold Medal in 2004.


Robertson's engineering career began in 1952, when he graduated from the Berkeley school of civil engineering. Robertson and his business partner John Skilling were the original structural engineers for the World Trade Center Twin Towers. Later on, Robertson established his own firm, Leslie E. Robertson Associates. In the early 1960s, Robertson was a leader of a young group of structural engineers who specialized in imaginative, and daring, approaches to grand-scale construction.

Since the collapse of the World Trade Center, debate about the safety of his rent-space-maximized designs have engaged the profession, but most would agree that the design of the World Trade Center actually withstood the impact of the plane with enough time to allow many thousands to evacuate safely. While he had designed the buildings to withstand the possible impact of a Boeing 707, which was the biggest plane of its time when they were built, getting lost in fog and crashing as it came in to land, he did not take into account the effects of subsequent fires, ignited by a fully laden plane's jet fuel causing widespread fire in the initial minutes, but driven and sustained by the many tons of desks, chairs, printers and office paper in the buildings.

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