19th International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, Seoul

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Published 16 December 2017
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19th International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, Seoul

Above: Official opening by Ban Ki Moon

The 19th ICSMGE was held in Seoul over four days in September 2017, and was attended by over 1800 delegates. After a rousing “welcome” by a number of Korean “big” drums, the Conference was opened by the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon. The first two days comprised plenary sessions. Most of those combined sessions involved the presentation of “Honour Lectures” covering the many different sub-fields of soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering. The particular highlights for me were the lectures delivered by Peter Day (the Terzaghi Oration, on Geotechnical Engineering Practice in Developing Countries), Jon Bray (the Ishihara Lecture, Simplified Procedure for Estimating Liquefaction-induced Building Settlements), Chris Haberfield (the Gregory Tschebotarioff Lecture, Practical Application of Soil Structure Interaction Analysis) and Buddhima Indraratna (the Louis Menard Lecture, on Recent Advances in Vertical Drains and Vacuum Preloading). There was a lot of other interesting ground covered by the honours and other lectures delivered during the first two days.

Formal awards were also presented during the plenary session, with “our” Outstanding Member Society award being passed to the British Geotechnical Association. We’re clearly in good company! It was also pleasing to see the Kevin Nash Gold Medal awarded to Professor Antonio Gens. The Kevin Nash Gold Medal is awarded in memory of Professor Kevin Nash, Secretary General of the International Society (1965-1981). The medal is awarded to a person who, through distinction as an engineer, through international contributions to engineering practice and education, through contributions to international good will, and through service to the International Society, has made a major contribution to fostering the ideals and goals of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering throughout the world. Professor Gens has visited NZ several times, and thoroughly deserves this recognition.

The Australian Geomechanics Society generously hosted a dinner for the outgoing and incoming Boards on the first night of the Conference. They were rightly pleased to have secured the hosting rights for the next conference, and certainly showed their appreciation. Their hospitality was faultless. It was a great chance for me to meet some of my fellow (incoming) Board members for the first time. A Gala Dinner was held on the evening of the second day, and introduced many of us to traditional Korean music. While photos cannot do justice to the multiple dancers each playing five drums, it was certainly an interesting cultural experience.

The third and fourth days of the Conference were given over to parallel sessions, each run by the different Technical Committees. Up to thirteen parallel sessions were held, varying between paper presentations, discussion sessions and workshops. While it was easy to find something of interest and value, it was difficult to choose the best session to attend. As with the plenary sessions, a lot of ground was covered! While it’s not really fair to identify highlights from the inevitably small sample of sessions I was able to attend, work that Ross Boulanger has done on dam stabilisation using shear walls (TC211) and a long running study by Stephen Buttling on the settlement of and load sharing beneath a high rise building in Bangkok (TC205) struck me as particularly interesting and valuable.

Breaks were held in the exhibition and poster area, with a wide range of suppliers showing off their products. Most interesting for me were the “industrial strength” drones being used by some of the Korean organisations. One was even set up for airborne geophysics, operating 2-3m off the ground.

I encourage you to find the conference proceedings online and have a browse. There is plenty of value in there, although it may take a bit of effort to find your way to it!

Above: An Immediate Past Chair contemplating dinner, Gangnam Style

Lastly, as has been common at these events, the NZGS was poorly represented. We were able to give a significant proportion of our allocated pages to the AGS. With the next ICSMGE being held next door in 2021, we should try and do better. It really is worth the effort to find out what’s going on in research and practice elsewhere in the world.
I was fortunate enough to be supported by the NZGS and Beca to attend this conference, and am truly grateful for the opportunity.

Gavin Alexander
Former immediate Past Chair,
current Australasia VP for ISSMGE


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ISSN 0111-6851