Development & Alumni Relations Office 


04 February 2019

An exclusive preview of An Engineer Imagines – Marcus Robinson’s cinematic homage to the extraordinary life and career of Queen’s Civil Engineering graduate Peter Ronan Rice (BSc 1956) – is the latest world-class offering in an exceptional 12 months for QFT, Queen’s Film Theatre.  

A limited number of tickets are available for a special screening on Tuesday 26 February at 6pm, which will be followed by a live Q&A session with director Marcus Robinson in Queen’s Film Theatre. The film will then go on a limited national release from 1 March.

And as QFT continues to offer innovative cinema into its second half century, Queen’s graduates are being offered a chance to win a copy of a commemorative publication marking its 50th anniversary year (full details below).

Widely regarded as the most distinguished structural engineer of the late twentieth century, Peter Ronan Rice was born in Dublin in 1935, the eldest of three children to James Patrick Rice (1896-1989) and Maureen Katherine Rice (1903-73). An Engineer Imagines traces Peter’s extraordinary life and career, from his humble Dundalk childhood, to his work on some of the most recognisable buildings in the world including the Sydney Opera House, The Pompidou Centre and the Lloyd’s building in London, to his untimely death in 1992.

Marcus Robinson (a 2016 Queen’s Honorary DSSc graduate) uses stunning time-lapse photography and revealing interviews to tell the story of a genius who stood in the shadow of architectural icons, a man who pushed the boundaries of art and science to achieve the unimaginable.

Peter Rice first studied aeronautical engineering at Queen’s before switching to civil engineering, where he was described by a former colleague as an extrovert, a bit hyperactive and always waving his arms about, very bright and very popular. "You could see his mind was working faster than most peoples'."

In 2014, the Naughton Gallery at Queen’s held an exhibition on Peter Rice’s work as part of Creativity Month. The School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering at Queen's also hosted Engineering Imagination, a unique ‘hands on’ educational experience for year 12 and 13 pupils some details of which are captured in a short YouTube video.

A book entitled Traces of Peter Rice, which is also the title of the video, edited by Kevin Barry and published in 2012 is available in Queen’s Special Collections in the McClay Library.

Joining Ove Arup & Partners shortly after he graduated in 1956, Peter Rice had heard that 'it was a place where an oddball could fit in.' It was said of Rice that he could design structures 'like a pianist who can play with his eyes shut'.

Working with many of the world's greatest architects on buildings that became icons of contemporary architecture, Peter Rice brought a uniquely poetic feeling to his work. He was awarded the Royal Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) shortly before his untimely and tragic death in 1992.

An Engineer Imagines

Directed by 2014 BAFTA Award-winning cinematographer Marcus Robinson, the film is a visual celebration of a visionary designer. Boasting Robinson’s trademark, spectacular 35mm time-lapse photography, it stunningly captures Rice’s inspiring creations while the man himself is vividly brought to life by conversations with his family, collaborators and his own writings.

Director Marcus Robinson described the filmmaking process: “Filming and directing this homage to one of the world’s greatest structural engineers has been a moving and life-affirming experience.

“It is as though at every step of the way, we have been guided by the transcendent spirit of Peter Rice, brought to life by the loving words of those who knew him best and by the extraordinary buildings that bear his innovative touch.”

Producer Brian Willis recalls seeing the exhibition which inspired the film: “I was drawn to the story of Peter Rice when I went to an exhibition celebrating his work back in 2013. I couldn’t believe that here was someone who was world-renowned in his field, working with the world’s top living architects, and I didn’t know about him.

“I thought, I should do something about that. This was a story that deserved recognition from a much wider audience.”

Robert McCann Finn of Sentioar, the distributor of the film commented: “We are delighted to be working with Fine Point Films and Igloo Films in bringing Marcus’s incredible Cinematic vision and craft to cinema audiences across Ireland. Peter is one of the forgotten cultural giants of Ireland’s modern history and we hope audiences and the wider public will be as mesmerised as we were when we first saw An Engineer Imagines.

An Engineer Imagines is a Fine Point Films and Igloo Films co-production film, funded by Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland, RTÉ, Northern Ireland Screen, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and the BBC.

Prize competition

In 2018, QFT marked 50 years as Northern Ireland’s top independent cinema in month-long series of films and celebrations held in October. Offering over thirty screenings, events and a special exhibition of artefacts and memorabilia,

A commemorative publication covering the first 50 years of QFT includes archive photos and ephemera, along with reflections from audiences, staff and film luminaries, is now on sale for £6 at the Box Office in QFT. 

To celebrate QFT50, the Development and Alumni Relations Office and Queen’s Film Theatre are offering alumni of the University a chance to win a copy of the souvenir anniversary publication in a special competition.

Simply like and tag a friend on the Queen's University Belfast Alumni Facebook page between now and Friday 15 February (5pm, GMT) for a chance to win!

For more on QFT’s current programme of films and events visit their website.  

To submit graduate news items, or for general enquiries about this story, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen's University Belfast or telephone: +44 (0)28 9097 5321.

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