978-0-618-46527-9 / 9780618465279

Building Big


Publisher:HMH Books for Young Readers



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About the book:

David Macaulay's hit PBS series by the same name cannot take you as far as this book does into the wonders of the constructed world: dams, domes, skyscrapers, tunnels, and bridges. It's also a trip through time, transporting you, for instance, from Rome's Ponte Fabricio (built in 62 B.C.) to the 1930s Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to France's Ponte de Normandie across the Seine, which was the longest bridge on earth when completed in 1994. Some of the wires that so ingeniously hold up the Golden Gate are depicted in their intricate engineering context--and at their actual size. As you pore over Macaulay's crystal-clear text and profuse illustrations, the mental fog lifts and you get a sense of what a marvelous act of imagination the bridge is.

In books about building, the whole art lies in the details. Macaulay gives you a glimpse into the minds of the designers, too: in making a tunnel under the Thames River in London, Marc Brunel was inspired by shipworms, "the scourge of the Royal Navy," mollusks who used shieldlike shells to bore holes through timber "and then had the audacity to create a rigid lining in the wood with material they excreted." Though the poor workers who created Brunel's tunnel shields had to brave fiery explosions of methane gas and vile fumes from centuries of sewage--and as Macaulay rather rudely puts it, "Brunel's shield now seems a bit like a platoon of creaking Star Wars robots leaning against each other for support as they inch their way nervously through the muck"--the construction did the trick. That tunnel begun in 1825 is still part of the London Underground subway system.

Macaulay can construct a sound sentence: a child can grasp his celebration of the art of engineering, and a grownup can read him with childlike glee. --Tim Appelo

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