MacArthur Fellows Program

Theodore Zoli

Bridge Engineer | Class of 2009

Making major technological advances to protect transportation infrastructure in the event of natural and man-made disasters.

Bridge Engineer
HNTB Corporation
New York, New York
43 at time of award
Published January 26, 2009

About Theodore's Work

Theodore Zoli is a structural engineer who is leading the design of elegant and enduring bridges around the world and making major technological advances to protect transportation infrastructure in the event of natural and man-made disasters. An expert in long-span, cable-supported bridges, he has played a key role in the creation of a number of bold contemporary structures, from the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge in Boston to the Blennerhassett Island Bridge over the Ohio River. Zoli’s recent work on the monumentally scaled Missouri River Pedestrian Bridge demonstrates his ability to respond to the contexts and challenges specific to each project. By dramatically reducing the weight and cost of the original design — involving a highly complex, horizontally curved surface — and devising solutions to address both wind- and pedestrian-induced vibrations, he ensured the success of the bridge’s striking “S” shape. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, Zoli has focused, as well, on developing armoring strategies to retrofit iconic bridges across the United States to maintain their structural integrity against the possibility of damage from explosion. Drawing from military research on terrorist weapon technologies and tank armor, he developed a novel composite material that represents the state of the art in lightweight, blast-resistant coverings for a broad array of construction applications. In an era of aging infrastructure and catastrophic structural collapses, Zoli is safeguarding vulnerable links in the nation’s highway system and developing design principles for the construction of robust, new landmarks in the United States and across the globe.


Theodore Zoli received a B.S. (1988) from Princeton University and an M.S. (1989) from the California Institute of Technology. Since 1990, he has been affiliated with the HNTB Corporation, where he currently serves as a vice president and technical director of bridges. He is also a visiting lecturer in Princeton University’s Department of Civil Engineering and an adjunct professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at Columbia University.

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Please credit: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

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