This Keynote Address highlights the unifying elements in geotechnical theory and practice. Unifying concepts, history, achievements and challenges are reviewed. It is emphasized that major value added contributions arise from an integrated or holistic approach to geotechnical engineering. The current organization of the geotechnical community is not adequate to foster this approach. The formation of an International Geotechnical Union is advocated in order to better meet the challenges of the new millennium.


Each of these questions will be addressed in the following. The perspective is necessarily personal. It will be argued that, notwithstanding the achievements of the past and the exciting new developments provoking change in geotechnical engineering in recent years, the way in which geotechnical engineering adds value is not adequately understood, recognized and rewarded. Examples will be given to illustrate that the way forward to resolve this issue requires emphasis on unification, as opposed to specialization, in geotechnical engineering. This emphasis, "Common Ground", must be highlighted not only in geotechnical practice but also in educational and research programs. A new organizational structure, an International Geotechnical Union, is necessary to promote this vision.


Anon (1999) also discussed the practice of geotechnical engineering and noted that it often encompasses a wide variety of skills involving many types of professionals concerned with the ground; e.g. civil and structural engineers, tunnelling engineers, mining engineers, geotechnical engineers, engineering geologists, geologists, hydrogeologists, geophysicists, geochemists, etc. Figure 1, modified from Anon (1999), suggests that the main deliverables of geotechnical engineering are:

  • structural support systems,

  • fluid control systems,

  • underground geo-structures,

  • surface geo-structures and

  • ground improvement.

As indicated, geotechnical engineering draws not only on relevant scientific and engineering fundamentals, but also on public policy restraints, construction practice, and risk management.

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