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Engineer of the Moment & NYREJ 2021 Ones to Watch, Diego Rivera, LERA Structural Engineers

We are pleased to name Diego Rivera as LERA's Engineer of the Moment!

LERA's very own Diego Rivera, Design Engineer at LERA Consulting Structural Engineers has been awarded the prestigious 2020 Hangai Prize! Given Mr. Rivera's CANstruction 2020 involvement and Hangai Prize Awardee, LERA is proud to shine a light on Mr. Rivera and his accomplishments.

The IASS Hangai Prize recognizes talented young researchers, designers, and engineers working in the field of shell and spatial structures. This recognition is achieved by selecting outstanding submissions to the Annual IASS Symposium in the form of research papers, résumés of design projects, or innovative ideas.

Read more about the Hangai Prize here: IASS Hangai Prize and Full List of Hangai Prize Winners

LERA is also pleased to congratulate Mr. Rivera on being featured as New York Real Estate Journal's One to Watch in 2021. Congratulations to Mr. Rivera on all of your accomplishments!


About the Hangai Prize

The Hangai Prize was established in 2001 in memory of Professor Yasuhiko Hangai (Japan, 1942-1998), a very active member of the IASS and its Executive Council.

18th Hangai Prize, 2020: Because the Covid-19 pandemic required the postponement of the IASS 2020 Symposium, the applications received in 2020 were evaluated into the autumn. The winners were announced in late autumn and are now listed on this website, the winning papers have been published in the December 2020 issue of the Journal of the IASS, and the winning authors will present their contributions in conferral ceremonies at the IASS 2020/21 Virtual Symposium in August, 2021.

"I am so happy to share that I have been selected as one of the recipients of the prestigious 18th Hangai Prize (2020) by the International Association of Shell and Spatial Structures (IASS) for my research paper titled "Adaptive framework for structural pattern optimization".

Last week, I had the privilege to present my work in a plenary lecture during the 7th International Conference on Spatial Structures (Spatial Structures 2020/21) hosted by the University of Surrey. It was such an exciting opportunity to listen to the incredible work being done in the field of shell and spatial structures and an absolute honor to present alongside such highly esteemed engineers and researchers.

For this, I would like to express my sincerest thanks: to the IASS Organizing Committee for adapting to the uncertainty of the last year and coordinating a virtual conference; to the University of Surrey for hosting the conference; and of course, to the Hangai Prize Selection Committee for giving me this great honor.

I would also like to give a special thanks to Caitlin Mueller and Renaud Danhaive, who made this paper possible. I'm so grateful for your invaluable support and happy to share this honor with you both."

- Diego Rivera


A Moment with Diego Rivera, Design Engineer at LERA

Photo above: Mr. Rivera (right) hiking with his older brother at Grand Canyon

How do you contribute to your community or your profession?

"I think mentorship is very important, especially for those who are young and/or new to the industry. As a first-generation college graduate, I personally benefited immensely from the guidance of many professors and other mentor figures over the past several years, so I am trying to serve a similar role for a student with a similar background at my alma mater Cal Poly. Staying connected with him and passing on my experiences has already been incredibly rewarding, and I hope to continue taking mentorship positions as I gain more experience and get more involved in the industry."

What led you to your current profession?

"I always enjoyed math and science, so engineering seemed like the natural career choice. During undergrad, I chose to pursue structural engineering, specifically, because I liked the idea of working on larger scale projects with immediate physical impacts on the public. My interest in structural engineering only strengthened as I continued to learn more about certain pioneers in the structural engineering industry and even started to see structure, architecture, and sculpture as significant influences on the quality of our daily lives."

Which project, deal, or transaction was the “game-changer” in the advancement of your career?

"Moving across the country for grad school was definitely the “game-changer”. I spent my whole life in San Luis Obispo County in California up until that point, so making the move was not only a big decision for me but also for my family. Studying at MIT also exposed me to a different side of structural engineering that I wasn’t familiar with before and encouraged me to get involved in engineering associations like the IASS. Subsequently moving to New York City then opened even more doors in my career and has broadened my perspective on the world and my profession."

Photo above: Mr. Rivera hiking at Great Falls, Maryland

What do you like most about your job?

"Among many other things, I find it so fascinating to work on projects of such scale and see how components sometimes come together so intricately and so elegantly. I remember reading a paper, The Folly of Structures: An Apology for Rigidity by Bernard Vaudeville, in which man-made structures are described almost like delicate and fragile constructions realized only by calculation (as opposed to the massive stability of a mountain). It’s a concept, that I feel, contrasts the more common impression of structure as a giant hunk of concrete and steel, and it is a concept that has kept me intrigued on the design of buildings. It’s really all a matter of scale."

What can our political leaders do to increase equality in the workplace?

"I think education and transparency are certainly important. In general, being informed on the industry can encourage a collective understanding on what being a structural engineer entails, including topics like compensation, diversity, work-life balance, etc."

Who or what inspires you?

"Some of the first names that come to mind when I think “structural engineer” are Peter Rice and Ted Happold, both of which seemed to be experts at bridging the gap between practicality and “out-of-the-box” thinking. Their work and involvement in research and engineering associations were very inspirational for me as a grad student. On a more personal note, my parents and the rest of my family are some of the biggest sources of inspiration for me. They have sacrificed so much for me to be in this position and serve as my greatest reminder to give my full effort in whatever endeavor I wish to pursue."

If your life were made into a movie, what actor would you want to portray you?

"Danny DeVito or Denzel Washington, for obvious reasons."


"TAKE A STAND", CANstruction 2020

Diego Rivera was the co-caption for CANstruction 2020 for which LERA took home the Cheri C. Melillo Award, dedicated after Canstruction Founder, Cheri Melillo, at the 28th installation of the annual charitable design competition.


Diego Rivera, Kristen Bell

Team Members

Lindsey Judge, Sarabjit Singh, Richard Tran, Elias Matar; Sami Matar; Edward J. Roberts; Stephen Pfund; Monica Svojsik; Kin Hei Lam; Kaitlyn Kliewer; Caroline Bambach; Joshua Antolick; Ava Mennin



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