World renowned Professor Robert Park was born in Fiji, in 1933. Perhaps it was beginning life on a Pacific island, surrounded by the seismically active ‘ring of fire’ that inspired his life-long passion for earthquake engineering.
As a young student, Professor Park attended the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. There, he achieved his first qualifications in civil engineering, going on to gain a PhD in civil engineering from the University of Bristol, in England.
Professor Park worked alongside renowned civil and earthquake engineer Professor Tom Paulay.
Their work together on seismically sound structural design is integral to towns and cities around the globe today. Like Paulay, Park was well recognised during his career. He received numerous accolades and held multiple positions of importance in the field of earthquake engineering.Park served as the President of the New Zealand Pre-stressed Concrete Institute from 1975 - 1977, and as President of the New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering from 1983 – 1985.
Perhaps his most prominent, and arguably his most influential position, was serving from 1996 2000, as Executive Vice-President of the International Association for Earthquake Engineering, promoting global collaboration among scientists and engineers working in the field of earthquake engineering and earthquake risk reduction.
Professor Park's civil engineering expertise also transferred into the realm of education. He was a highly sought after speaker all around the world, and frequently lectured at the University of Canterbury.
Some of his most enduring work is in his significant contribution to pre-stressed and reinforced concrete buildings and bridges. His skills not only in structural engineering, but also in leadership mean that Park’s work has translated into the development of influential design codes that are commonplace all over the world.
Robert Park died in 2004. He never got to see how the importance of his life’s work played out during the Canterbury earthquake sequence of 2010-2011.
While the seismic events devastated a city so very dear to his heart, had it not been for the highly influential earthquake engineering resilience work of Professor Park and his colleague Professor Tom Paulay, Christchurch would have been in a far worse state of disrepair following this slew of severe, deadly earthquakes.