Why Buildings Fall Down: How Structures Fail

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W. W. Norton & Company, 2002 - Architecture - 346 pages
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Once upon a time, seven wonders of the world stood tall and brilliant and, it must have seemed, would stand forever, impervious to time and gravity. Now only one remains--the pyramid at Khufu, in the Egyptian desert near Cairo. All of the others have fallen down. Modern technologies, computerized designs, and new materials have minimized structural failures nearly to the vanishing point. Even so, we can learn from ancient as well as recent history. Why Buildings Fall Down chronicles the how and why of the most important and interesting structural failures in history and especially in the twentieth century. Not even all of the pyramids are still with us. The Pyramid of Meidum has shed 2,500,000 tons of limestone and continues to disintegrate. Beginning there our authors, both world-renowned structural engineers, take us on a guided tour of enlightening structural failures--buildings of all kinds, from ancient domes like Istanbul's Hagia Sophia to the state of the art Hartford Civic Arena, from the man-caused destruction of the Parthenon to the earthquake damage of 1989 in Armenia and San Francisco, the Connecticut Thruway bridge collapse at Mianus, and one of the most fatal structural disasters in American history: the fall of the Hyatt Regency ballroom walkways in Kansas City. Buildings have fallen throughout history whether made of wood, steel, reinforced concrete, or stone. But these failures do respect the laws of physics. All are the result of static load or dynamic forces, earthquakes, temperature changes, uneven settlements of the soil, or other unforeseen forces. A few are even due to natural phenomena that engineers and scientists are still unable to explain or predict. Thestories that make up Why Buildings Fall Down are, finally, very human ones, tales of the interaction of people and nature, of architects, engineers, builders, materials, and natural forces, all coming together in sometimes dramatic and always instructive ways in the places where we l
 

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User Review  - janemarieprice - LibraryThing

The second volume is perhaps a bit more interesting for the lay reader, but I found it a little too repetitive. The few major disasters I already knew about and why they happened so that left a lot of ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - benuathanasia - LibraryThing

I read this as part of my undergrad work to get credits for ethical technology use (they wouldn't take my transfer credits without me reading this first). The voice is good (not too dry, not judgmental, etc) and the anecdotes are interesting. Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

PREFACE
7
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
9
INTRODUCTION
11
The First Structural Failure
15
Miracle on Thirtyfourth Street
23
Will the Pantheon Stand Up Forever?
29
For Lack of Redundancy
53
Big Bangs
74
The House of Cards
171
Structural Dermatology
181
OldAge Death
205
The Worst Structural Disaster in the United States
219
The Politics of Destruction
229
The Structure of the Law
240
Terror from the Sky
255
Conclusion Can We Prevent Future Failures?
267

The Day the Earth Shook
88
Galloping Gertie
107
When Metals Tire
119
Thruways to Eternity
132
The Weaknesses of Mother Earth
147
Valley of Tears
159
A Loads
279
B Stress and Strain
287
C Structural Materials
290
D Structural Systems
293
INDEX
325
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About the author (2002)

Matthys P. Levy is a founding Principal and Chairman Emeritus of Weidlinger Associates, Consulting Engineers. Born in Switzerland and a graduate of the City College of New York, Mr. Levy received his MS and CE degrees from Columbia University. He has been an adjunct professor at Columbia University and a Distinguished Professor at Pratt Institute and a lecturer at universities throughout the world.

Mario G. Salvadori was a structural engineer and professor of both civil engineering and architecture at Columbia University.

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